WA Management provides professional, adaptable and appropriate solutions for your Health and Safety needs. Each week, our research blog takes a detailed look at particularly topical areas of the sector, or risks that are repeatedly overlooked. The focus for this week ties directly into our ‘Hazard of the Month’ as it outlines the causes and consequences of Aspergillosis – a relatively-unknown airborne disease that may have surprising relevance to your company.
WHAT is Aspergillosis?
Aspergillosis, aside from its seemingly impenetrable name, is a disease contracted from the inhalation of the Aspergillus fungus. This fungus, which is “very common in compost heaps”, can grow and multiply in piles of rotten leaves or wood. Furthermore, damp, faulty or neglected air conditioning units (see fig. 1) can provide the perfect breeding ground for the fungi and can circulate its deadly spores through the air. Extensive inhalation of the fungus can aggravate pre-existing lung conditions – meaning Asthma or Cystic Fibrosis can be transformed into life-endangering illnesses. The consequence of contracting Aspergillosis is, thus, incredibly serious.
If contracted, Aspergillosis can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, persistent coughing and general fatigue (see fig.2). Those at high risk (see fig. 3) are advised to implement preventative measures, and to seek medical support if they show symptoms. Although the rarity of the disease means it is often difficult to diagnose outright, getting the right treatment and fast is key to a full recovery.
An article from the BBC outlines the dangers of Aspergillosis in greater detail; reporting the unfortunate death of a 50-year old man who had inhaled the Aspergillus fungi in 2008. The man developed ‘severe breathing problems’ after working with ‘rotting wood and plant mulch in his garden’. A subsequent misdiagnosis meant that appropriate treatment was administered too late. An inquiry after the death highlighted the benefit of preventative measures.
Professor David Denning, a nationally-renowned expert on fungal diseases reassured the inquiry that the Aspergillus fungi was largely harmless to most people but, as this case shows, could create deadly results in the wrong conditions. Denning concluded his findings by suggesting that Aspergillus posed little threat to casual gardeners, but that a ‘face-mask would be advisable’ for those in the professional gardening and industrial sectors to mitigate the risks.
So, WHO is affected and WHAT are the risks?
WA Management identified that the groups most at risk of the Aspergillus Fungus are:
- Professional gardeners
- Waste disposal
- Demolition services, and those regularly working in damp, neglected buildings
- Air-conditioning servicers and installers
Furthermore, the dangers posed by Aspergillosis become greater when an individual:
- Has a history of lung conditions (TB, Cystic Fibrosis etc)
- Has a suppressed immune system
Despite what this article outlines, it is not all negative news regarding Aspergillosis. There are simple and effective steps employers can take to protect their workforce; like using face-masks when handling compost and facilitating medical help when appropriate. As in all aspects of occupational Health and Safety; a clear, effective and appropriate assessment of the risks and plan of action is important. Identifying and limiting the risks reduces any legal, financial and personal headaches that may arise.
Here at WA Management, we offer specialised Risk Assessments for your company – even if you have never considered Aspergillosis before. Our expert assessment team recently compiled and updated Risk Assessments specifically for Aspergillosis, as well as other common diseases in the workplace. By applying our renowned professionalism and high-standards, WA Management works with the client to provide a tailored and appropriate risk mitigation strategy – giving you the peace of mind in dealing with a wide range of occupational hazards. We do rigorous research so you don’t have to.
If you are in any of the areas of high risk identified or wish to find out how you can protect your workforce, contact WA Management today for a free personalised consultation.
Aspergillosis UK – https://www.aspergillus.org.uk/
- An encyclopaedic resource base for those living with Aspergillosis or at risk
- Free, comprehensive and accessible
NHS England – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/aspergillosis/
- Details on symptoms and dangers
WA Management – http://www.wamanagement.co.uk/
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/nottinghamshire/4680397.stm [Last accessed 28th June 2018]
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7451439.stm [Last accessed 28th June 2018]