Other workplaces

This information is for people that work in other areas. It gives information on things in the workplace that could damage the lungs and advice on how to protect them.

What are the hazards?

These are some of the hazards you may come into contact with at work.

  • Dusts

    Inhalation of dust and other particles from manufacturing processes, flour, grain, animals, wood and brick.

  • Fumes

    Fumes from chemicals, paints and glues, manufacturing processes, engines and cleaning products.

  • Biological agents

    Biological agents are widely found in the natural environment, however some workplaces may use them intentionally. They include bacteria, viruses and fungi (mould). Some infectious lung diseases can be transmitted in the workplace particularly if you work in agriculture or with animals, or in a healthcare or gym.

Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung conditions like COPD and lung cancer

If you smoke, you will be at a much higher risk of developing a lung condition.

Conditions

How can your health be affected?

Always consult with your healthcare professional

How can your health be affected?

Your employer has a responsibility to ensure the work environment is appropriately ventilated and that you use protective equipment and clothing, as well as follow appropriate safety advice.

Here is what you can do to help protect your lung health at work:

  • Conduct a risk assessment

    A risk assessment involves considering what could happen if someone is exposed to a hazard and the likelihood of it happening.

    A risk assessment should determine:

      • How severe a risk is;
      • Whether any existing control measures are effective;
      • What action to take to control the risk and;
      • How urgently the action needs to be taken

    We are all responsible for conducting risk assessments, to make sure we are doing jobs safely and efficiently.

  • Follow the Hierarchy of Controls

    In Australia, you and your lung health are protected by Workplace Health and Safety legislation. Your employer must ensure that the highest possible standards are in place to protect your lung health. To achieve this, every workplace must follow strict procedures to control your risk. This is known as the Hierarchy of Controls.

    The Hierarchy of Controls refers to actions your employer must take to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks so far as is reasonably practicable. The Hierarchy of Controls are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability (elimination) to the lowest (personal protective equipment).

    Elimination refers to eliminating the hazard entirely.

    Substitution refers to substituting the hazard with a safer alternative.

    Engineering Controls refers to a control measure that is physical in nature, including a mechanical device or process. Examples include physically separating the hazard from people by distance or barriers (known as isolating the hazard) and using ventilation systems.

    Administrative Controls refers to work methods or procedures that are designed to minimise exposure to a hazard, as well as the information, training and instruction needed to ensure workers can work safely.

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) refers to anything used or worn to minimise risk to worker’s health and safety, such as face masks and respirators.


    Your employer should:

    • Provide or ensure that you use PPE that is specifically designed for the hazardous agent you are working with – you may need to undergo fit-testing in some instances, to ensure it is properly fitted
    • Ensure you are trained on how to use your PPE properly, including cleaning and maintenance
      • Make sure you are clean shaven, or your facial hair is trimmed when wearing Respiratory Protective Equipment, so there is a proper seal around your nose and mouth


    For other workplaces:

    • All workplaces need an adequate supply of fresh air
    • Using a dust lamp can be a cheap and effective way to identify dust and mist clouds in your work environment and assist you in identifying if your workplace is ventilating properly
    • When cleaning:
      • Check ingredients in cleaning products and avoid those that will put you at risk
      • Use wipes not sprays so that you are putting less chemicals into the air for you to breathe in
      • Follow label instructions about the safe use of chemicals
    • Avoid harmful products:
      • Check whether any of the products you use can be swapped for versions that are less harmful
  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor

    Have regular check-ups with your doctor, even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms.

    Tell your doctor:

    • Where you work
    • The conditions you work under, including use of the Hierarchy of Controls
    • Your role and proximity to the hazardous agents
    • About the hazardous agents – take the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) with you
    • If you vape or smoke tobacco or other drugs

    When your doctor is armed with this information, they can better monitor your lung health and overall well-being.

    If you are experiencing any changes in your breathing or have developed a cough, talk to your doctor as soon as you can.

    Tell your doctor:

    • When you experience symptoms
    • How long you’ve had the symptoms for
    • If you’ve had time off work because of your symptoms
    • If your workmates are experiencing symptoms


  • Participate in regulated health monitoring

    If you work with certain hazardous agents, you are required to undergo health monitoring (sometimes referred to as health surveillance) under Workplace Health and Safety legislation. In some industries, your employer must organise it and cover the costs. Health monitoring is conducted by a registered medical practitioner and involves examination and ongoing monitoring to see if the agents you are exposed to are affecting your health.

  • Do not smoke or vape tobacco or other products

    Smoking or vaping of any kind, including tobacco, e-liquids or other drugs, increases your risk of many lung diseases.

    For support to quit smoking, click here.