Unite has launched a diesel emissions’ register, so that workers can log when they’ve been exposed to excessive diesel fumes.
The union said that it has already uncovered ‘disturbing’ results after the register was piloted for workers in the transport sector. Over half (55%) reported suffering from wheezing and other respiratory problems through exposure to fumes.
“Many shifts have had dense fog through diesel emissions, staff have coughed, had sore eyes, sore throats”, and “I regularly work in a building with diesel fumes from diesel engines”, read some of the submissions.
Long-term problems reported included effects on lung capacity, breathlessness, asthma, being more prone to colds and flu and sinusitis.
Now the union is asking workers in other industries to come forward so Unite can bring companies to account.
Unite assistant general secretary for transport Diana Holland said: “Unite is acting to protect our members from the ticking time bomb of being needlessly exposed to poisonous diesel fumes. We cannot take risks with health and safety at work.
“We are deeply concerned the government is burying its head in the sand and allowing people to become sick and even die due to its inaction.
“In the meantime, where it is clear that employers are ignoring their legal duties, information from the register will be used to force employers who are making our members sick and ill to clean up their acts. If it can be proved that the health of workers has been damaged due to exposure to diesel fumes, Unite will consider taking legal action on behalf of our members,” she said.
Over 650 people a year die of lung or bladder cancer as a result of being exposed to diesel fumes at work. Around 800 new cases of cancer linked to diesel exhaust fume exposure are registered each year.
Unite, which represents workers in manufacturing, public services, transport, food, finance and construction, created the register to draw attention to employers’ responsibility under health and safety law.
Under the Control of Substance Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), all employers have a legal duty to prevent exposure to substances that can cause health issues.
The Unite diesel register can be found here.
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