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4HW002 The Impact Of Work On Health

tag 0 Download 0 Pages / 0 Words tag 21-06-2022
  • Course Code: 4HW002
  • University: University Of Wolverhampton
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  • Country: United Kingdom


Occupational Asthma


In today’s environment, occupation disease is very common, which impacts the health of workers. Work-related illness is the health conditions, which are caused by an individual’s job. This may include slow injuries like; Repetitive strain injury or impulsive injury like trip or slip. There may be impact of work stress on the health. This essay includes a critical discussion about one most common occupational disease in the United Kingdom, i.e. Occupational Asthma. There are so many people in United Kingdom, who are having the symptoms of Asthma related to their workplace; like problems with breathing, coughing, wheezing and some chest problems. This paper discusses the trends and data about the disease and health and life style factors, which mainly impact the health of workers. Furthermore, there are some suggestions and measures, which can lessen the condition on the working population.  

Occupational Asthma

The disease, which is taken into consideration for this report, is occupational asthma. Occupational asthma is the condition of asthma, which is caused by or gets worst by elements and substances at the workplace. It is most common reason of adult onset asthma. It makes up 9 to 15% of the cases of asthma in the people in their working age. There are some industries in UK, which 10% of the total employees develop the symptoms of occupational asthma. These substances can affect the human health in different ways; like an allergic reaction, irritant reaction and impact of chemicals (Bernstein, 2011). Allergic reaction includes the people with allergies, who have the allergic asthma. An irritant reaction includes the person, who reacts to smoking with the asthma. The last is the reaction, which results from the natural chemicals, like histamines in the lungs, which can result an attack of asthma. Occupational asthma is also called work-related asthma.

The major symptoms of occupational asthma are the general signs of the asthma attack, like; wheezing, coughing, and tight feeling in the chest, difficulty in breathing and nasal blockage. There may also be eye irritation and runny nose (Kogevinas, Zock & Jarvis D et al. 2007). This disease is like a lung disorder in which the substances at the workplace can cause the lungs to swell and being narrow.

There are various jobs, where the rate of occupational asthma is the highest, like; baking, vehicle spray painting, wood working, working in agriculture, working with animals, hairdressing and engineering (Asthma UK, 2016). From all the jobs, wood workers are mainly affected by the occupational asthma, because wood dust is the major cause for this disease. There is possibility for high exposure to the dust from woods during the wood and furniture manufacturing process (Wiggans, Evans, Fishwick & Barber, 2016).

According to Cullinan & Taylor (2016), there are some agents of the disease with the low molecular mass, such as; hard wood dust, iroko, western red cedar, mahogany, African maple and manosonia etc. The exposure to the wood dusting has connected with variety of negative health impacts, which may include the respiratory effects, dermatitis, non-allergic respiratory effects and cancer. The allergic asthma has been revealed by the presence of lgE antibodies. From all the agents, Western red cedar is the most allergic. According to the study by Edwards, Brooks, Apol & Edwards, it was reported that a high occurrence of occupational asthma was observed among the wood workers caused by the WRC wood dust (Taylor & Cullinan, 2016). There are so many studies, which found that woodworkers have higher risks for both the airway responsiveness and asthma in comparison to the non-exposed controls. Schlunssen et al stated that woodworkers in the exposure category had a more chances for asthma.

In the process of physiology, the agents affect the organ of a human being. As there is the discussion about the occupational asthma, so it affects the lungs and airways of the population of United Kingdom. When a person comes in the contact of anything, which irritates their airways more, then their body can react in three ways (Bernstein, 2011). In this process, the muscles, which are around the airways, they tighten so that the airways become narrower. The lining of the airways starts to swell and sometimes phlegm builds that can tighten the airways more. These activities in the body can cause the airways to be more irritated and narrower. It can make very difficult to breath and lead to the asthma and then symptoms of asthma can be seen in the body of affected person, like; coughing, wheezing, chest tightening etc. When the people work with the wood dust then wood dust comes in the contact of airways. Sometimes, the agents impact the airways immediately, but sometimes they start to work within 24 hours, whether one has left the workplace (Jekel, 2007).

Figure 1: Physiology of Asthma

In United Kingdom, more than 5 million people are recently having the treatment for asthma. This data shows that 1 in every 12 adults and 1 in every 11 children are suffering from this disease. It is very common in the women in comparison to man. From all the data, approx. 5% of the people are having severe occupational asthma. In United Kingdom, study was conducted under two schemes, i.e. SWORD and IIDB (Health and Safety Executive, 2016). According to the SWORD, there were 117 forecasted new cases of the occupational asthma reported in comparison to 132 in the year 2014 and average of 220 cases per year over the last era. For IIDB, there were 70 cases of this disease evaluated in comparison to 70 in 2014 and an average of 113 patients per year in the last decade. According to the study of IIDB, there are 115 cases of the workers in last ten years, who caused the occupational asthma due to the wood dust.

 he below given graph shows the data base and trends in the occupational asthma in the population of United Kingdom (De Groene, Pal, & Beach, 2011). The graph shows that the number of cases of occupational asthma are decreasing in the current years. In 2008, the number of people injured by asthma was more in comparison to other years (Health and Safety Executive, 2016).

Figure 2: Occupational Asthma in United Kingdom, 2005-15

Source: Health and Safety Executive

There are so many lifestyle factors, which can cause the asthma in the population. According to Meredith (2000), smoking has been recognized as the factor, which increases the risk of occupational asthma in the workers. One research showed a dose-dependent impact. Marget (2000) stated that smoking is identified as the major factor that increases the risk of sensitization in the workers. There are many studies, which confirm that cigarette smoking is connected with the developing the asthma. There is also evidence that smoking among the adults and workers increases the asthma disease. The workers consider the smoking as the life style factor. According to a study, when a person inhales, then the smoke and affecting substances settle in the lining of the airways of lungs. These agents can cause the person asthma attack. Smoking damages the hair like structures in the airways. Gupta, Poongadan & Kumar (2016) defined that a second hand smoking is also dangerous for the worker’s health. It is more harmful than smoking. Second hand smoke is a term which is used for the combination of smoking from a burning cigarette and exhaled by any smoker. This is more harmful for the people, who already suffering from asthma (Gupta, Poongadan, & Kumar, 2016). When any person with asthma disease is exposed to second hand smoke, he/she can experience coughing and difficulty in breathing. For this, a survey is conducted in United Kingdom. In this survey, 82% people tell that smoking affects their asthma. Other factors are such as food, nutrition, physical activities and weight. Food reservations can also cause the asthma in the people.

According to Health and Safety Executive (2016), in United Kingdom, asthma is very common and expensive chronic disease and occurrence of this disease is related to social determinants of health. There may be other wider determinants of the health, which can cause the asthma in the people. These factors include social environment, socio-economic factors and physical environment (Vallières, Pintos, Parent & Siemiatycki, 2015). Environment also plays an important role in development of asthma disease in human body. Environmental factors may include the thing like; cleaners, chemicals and food ingredients, which are linked with asthma. There may be the factors related to the educational attainment, which determine the future employment and income of the people as well it lowers the risk of smoking (Asthma UK, 2016).

There may be some suggestions for the employer for reducing the chances of occupational asthma in the wood workers. The employer and individuals should take some steps to protect them from the occupational asthma. Occupational asthma requires to be handled by using a partnership approach. Trade unions, workers and top management need to be engaged in creating a safe environment for the employees. The employers must comply with the regulations of The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) (Health and Safety Executive, 2016). This rule requires that the employers should control the exposures to harmful substances to protect the health of employees. They must assess the risk from the harmful elements. The wood workers are taking the wood dust and other agents by breathing and skin contact. Complying the regulations require to consider the replacement of the hazardous products with less hazardous substances. The employers must keep all the controls in the organization in a better working order (Sigsgaard & Heederik, 2011). The wood workers in the factory or outlets must wear the protective gloves and eye wear. There must be administrative controls like; good supervision. The factories must have good ventilation.

According to HSE, the employers should implement the process of risk assessment. In the process of risk assessment, first the employer must collect the information about the harmful substances and work practices. After that, they must evaluate their risks to health and then decide on the required measures to follow the regulations of COSHH. COSHH has established some standards, which an employer must meet when it requires the workers to work with the agents, which can cause occupational asthma in the wood workers. If the employer does not follow these standards, then it creates a basis for the employees to claim for the asthma (Tarlo & Liss, 2010).

The responsible persons like; employers and people should submit the reports under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, 1995). The employees, who have concerns about any harmful substances of any accident at the workplace, they also can report under these regulations. These regulations and guidelines will help the organization to take the disease on the first place and deal with the related agents, which cause the occupational asthma in the wood workers and other workers.

With these regulations, the employers and organizations can consider some measures to lessen the impact of the occupational asthma in the workers (Health and Safety Executive, 2011). Health surveillance can play an important role in this process. This is the process of gathering and using the data about the health of employees and substances, which the workers use in their work. This can help the wood workers in preventing the development of asthma by identifying the early symptoms. The organization must conduct health surveillance for detecting the signs of asthma (Ayres, Boyd, Cowie & Hurley, 2011).

Health and Safety Authority (2008) stated that Health surveillance for asthma for the wood workers may include the below given aspects;

  • Checking the lung function of workers before they start their work as wood worker
  • Conducting the questionnaire on regular basis and testing the lung function on a regular basis; this must be done by an occupational nurse and doctor.
  • Maintaining health records of workers.

If still it is not possible to control the risk exposure after using other measures, the employer should implement the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). It can be used with other measures also. This will be required to make sure that it is reducing the exposure. PPE include the safety eyewear, protective cloths and other respiratory protective equipment. So, the employers must implement this to protect the workers (Vickerstaff, Phillipson, & Wilkie, 2012). Along with these measures, the employer must provide the training to the workers to handle the machines and hazardous substances at workplace. By this, the employees can have the knowledge about the risks of injury from these elements.

Thus, occupational asthma is most common disease at the workplace in United Kingdom. This is primarily affecting the wood workers of UK as they have to work with the wood dust and other agents of the asthma. But the employers must know that the occupational asthma can be prevented by applying some standards and measures. The guidelines are outlined and effective measures are suggested, which an employer should implement to prevent the asthma or other diseases at the workplace.


Asthma UK, 2016, Smoking and Second hand smoke, retrieved from

Ayres, J.G., Boyd, R., Cowie, H. & Hurley, J.F, 2011, Costs of occupational asthma in the UK, Thorax, 66 (2).

Bernstein, D.I., 2011, Occupational Asthma, An Issue of Immunology and Allergy Clinics - E-Book, Elsevier Health Sciences.

De Groene, G.J., Pal, T.M. & Beach J, 2011, Workplace interventions for treatment of occupational asthma, Cochrane Database Systematic Review.

Gupta, N. Poongadan, M.N. & Kumar, R, 2016, Lifestyle factors and asthma in India — a case-control study. Advances in Respiratory Medicine, vol. 84, no. 2.

Health and Safety Executive, 2016, Work-related and occupational asthma in Great Britain 2016, Retrieved from

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Jekel, J.F, 2007, Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Preventive Medicine, Elsevier Health Sciences.

Kogevinas M, Zock J, Jarvis D et al. 2007, Exposure to substances in the workplace and new-onset asthma: an international prospective population-based study (ECRHS-II). Lancet 370:336-341.

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Tarlo S.M., & Liss, G.M, 2010, Prevention of occupational asthma. Curr Allergy Asthma Report. 

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Vallières E, Pintos J, Parent ME, & Siemiatycki J, 2015, Occupational exposure to wood dust and risk of lung cancer in two population-based case-control studies in Montreal, Environ Health.

Wiggans, R.E., Evans, G., Fishwick, D. & Barber, C.M., 2016, Asthma in furniture and wood processing workers: a systematic review, Occupational Medicine, vol. 66, pp. 193-201.

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