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Certificate Number 8140

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The Air That I Breathe.

No, not the famous hit by the Hollies but literally the air that I breathe when wandering round a foundry although if you want to see what the Hollies’ song is like, the link’s here.

Going back in time, the public perception of a foundry and it’s working environment was something out of a Dickens’ novel. Dark satanic mills and everything that comes with it. Much like this.

Image result for Victorian foundry pictures

No safety equipment apart from a flat cap and fumes everywhere. Happily times have changed and a lot of modern foundries look much more like this.

Image result for modern foundry pictures

The obvious change is the level of protection the people are wearing. A little less obvious is air quality although from the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) perspective, this is starting to take centre stage.

Although the air that anyone breathes has always been a factor in an HSE inspection, traditionally the focus has been much more on individual accidents. Slips, trips, broken bones, burns, that sort of thing. The change seems to have come about as a result of our aging population. The result of breathing in something nasty may not become apparent for years to come. Just think of asbestosis and how long that can take to develop. With an aging population, long latency diseases such as asbestosis and silicosis will become much more of a drain on an already overstretched NHS hence the government’s and therefor HSE’s focus on trying to stop the problem at source.

It’s no good these days just saying the working environment in your foundry must be ok because you’ve never had a claim or it looks alright and you can’t smell anything. The only way to prove it is to get a competent third party in and test what you’re breathing, the important word there being competent. You need someone who’s got all the right qualifications so the report links the technical results to what the employee was doing and offers advise on how to improve things. There’s a helpful download on the British Occupational Hygiene Society’s website which gives you a qualification guide for a range of testing and monitoring activities. The download’s at the bottom of the page here and HSE would expect to see these qualifications on a report.

It’s also important to decide on what you’re testing for. Respirable Crystaline Silica? Metal fume? Volatile organics? Foundry particulate? If you’re unsure, talk to the person doing the testing. They should be able to advise although make sure they’ve got experience in your type of foundry so they can offer the right advice.

Finally, talk to HSE. A lot of people I know in my industry view HSE as the enemy. Something on a par with a blood sucking vampire and they’d be happy if the local inspector could be fended off with a silver crucifix. I’ve never seen HSE like that. Sure, I don’t particularly look forward to their visits but something good always comes out of it. As far as I’m concerned, they are just another source of information, in their case a very extensive one and if you approach them with that mind set, you’re relationship with them will be a positive one rather than trying to battle the undead.

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Mike Naylor