• Kyle Durward

This week is Farm Safety Week (19th-23rd July 2021)

What are the hazards to your lungs in the farming and agriculture sector?

Chest problems, and ultimately work-related (occupational) lung disease, may occur as a result of breathing in dust vapours or chemicals from:

  • harvesting or handling grain, or mixing animal feedstuffs

  • feeding animals

  • handling mouldy hay or bedding and waste products from animals or poultry

  • slurry, silage

  • welding fume

  • some veterinary medicines and disinfectants

What are the risks?

Being exposed to dusts, vapours or chemicals at work for just a short time may cause unpleasant irritation or inflammation in the nose, throat or lungs.

Longer exposure may lead to more serious chest problems and lung diseases, including asthma, chronic bronchitis and farmer's lung.

These symptoms can be short-lived at the time of a job, or they may get worse and last longer until they are almost always present. They can be set off by even very small exposures to any substance to which you have become allergic, or sensitised.

How to control the hazards

Avoid breathing in harmful substances by:

  • using alternative, safer substances where possible

  • changing to low dust materials, e.g. granules or pellets

  • enclosing sources of dust or spray

  • vacuuming spillages instead of sweeping them up

Reduce the amount you breathe in by:

  • using local exhaust ventilation (LEV) e.g. when welding

  • using effective filters in tractor or vehicle cabs

  • maintaining filters to the manufacturer's instructions

  • improving ventilation in buildings

  • wearing appropriate, effective respiratory protective equipment (RPE)

If you need to wear masks or respirators, always adjust the straps so they fit properly. Store them in a clean, dry place and do not hang them from hooks or nails in dirty, dusty areas.

All masks and respirators must be CE marked.

Visit the HSE's personal protective equipment (PPE) page for more information.

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