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New campaign clears the air for outdoor workers

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The British Safety Council launched Time to Breathe to a captive, if not surprised, audience of Oxford Street commuters and shoppers on Tuesday, this week.


Over 50 participants, dressed as couriers, construction and road workers, police and lollipop ladies, came together to highlight the health risks outdoor workers face from long-term exposure to ambient air pollution.

A campaigner at the Time to Breathe march in Oxford Circus on 12 March. Photograph: Harry Richards Photography

To the beat of Britney Spear’s Toxic, the Hollies’ The Air That I Breathe, Too Much Pollution by Natty Nation and many others, campaigners on a wet and windy morning repeatedly crossed Oxford Circus, shouting slogans, clanging dustbin lids and shovels, holding placards on high and distributed leaflets to the public. BBC London News and London Live were on site interviewing key spokespeople for the campaign, including Andrew Grieve, senior air quality analyst of King’s College London and British Safety Council’s head of campaigns, Matthew Holder.

Time to Breathe is a UK-wide campaign calling for employers, policymakers and regulators to take seriously the risk of air pollution to the health of outdoor workers and is providing free information and resources to help reduce their exposure. With a high degree of political and regulatory inertia putting the health of outdoor workers at risk, the launch in Oxford Circus aimed to make a lasting impression and engage the public to put pressure on their MPs and employers to act.

In a world’s first, the British Safety Council also released Canairy, a free mobile app designed for employers and outdoor workers based in London. The app was made in partnership with experts at King’s College London and offers workers tips on how to reduce their exposure to toxic air. Employers, on request to the British Safety Council, will be able to access the app.

The campaign is working with Friends of the Earth, BOHS, GMB, Prospect, British Heart Foundation, British Lung Foundation, Cross River Partnership and Client Earth. Canairy was developed with the support of Kier Services (Highways) and Tideway West.

Time to Breathe is a UK-wide campaign calling for employers, policymakers and regulators to take seriously the risk of air pollution to the health of outdoor workers. To apply for the app please contact [email protected]

Free posters and promotional materials can be found at: www.britsafe.org/timetobreathe

Some of the photos from the day (credit: Harry Richards Photography)

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