The bakery industry's failure to protect workers from asthma caused by inhaling flour and grain dust has led to a crackdown by the Health and Safety Executive.
The HSE said that the UK's 65,000 bakers were particularly vulnerable, with flour and grain dust the second biggest cause of occupational asthma after isocyanates, which are typically used in paint spraying in the car industry.
In the last three years it served 73 improvement notices on bakeries relating to dust. Over the past decade there were 600 reported cases of asthma, although the HSE claimed the true figure was nearer 1,000. It wants to cut the number by nearly a third by 2010.
A recent survey of 55 UK bakeries found most did not comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations and had poor working practices. That was despite 80% of bakeries being aware that flour dust was a respiratory sensitiser. Only 27% knew the flour dust exposure limits.
Good dust extraction systems are the best method of preventing asthma , but better work practices were also important, said the HSE: "Most bakeries were still using inappropriate work practices, such as flour dusting by hand and cleaning by dry-brushing [rather than by vacuuming]."
It has launched a ?Breathe Easy' training package available from the Federation of Master Bakers.