Occupational Health: Alveolitis in Metal Working

Health is becoming the central thrust of any HSE visit and with good reason, health causes a huge impact on individuals and a massive strain on our NHS. However, not all safety professionals are aware of these risks well enough to control them and that’s where expert, external, independent advice can be invaluable.

Alveolitis is a condition of the lung caused by the inhalation of the mist created by metal working fluid when machining – particularly at higher speeds.

The Hazards of Metal Working Fluids (MWF)

Exposure to MWF can be hazardous in several ways but dermatitis from skin contact and lung problems from inhalation are the two major issues.  Biocides are often introduced into MWF’s to stop bacterial growth and this gives the clue about what can happen to the lungs when a fine mist is inhaled by workers.

Over a period of time workers may develop a number of ill health conditions including;

  • bronchitis;
  • irritation of the upper respiratory tract;
  • occupational asthma;
  • or, most seriously, extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EEA).

If you use MWF then seek to control exposure by minimising the volume and rate of delivery at the cutting point or seek to capture mist or enclose it within CNC machines.  If you use a small bright torch with a focusing beam you may be able to seek where and how mist is rising from the process – we issue these torches for free to our clients so if you need one please ask – we’ve helped many businesses with this simple tool.

Consider also your current health surveillance provision – if you need any help and support we can provide skilled practitioners to help you put a robust health surveillance plan in place – just call us on 01453 800100 for more detail and read here for a case study involving a major aerospace company which was recently fined £800,000

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us above or the form below to request a proposal;

Contact form

Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.

Posted by Roger Hart

Major aerospace company receives £800,000 fine for occupational ill health

Martin Baker Aircraft Company has been fined £800,000 after three of its workers developed Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis (EEA).

EEA is often caused when workers inhale contaminated metal working fluids as a mist when high speed machining is taking place, these fluids can provide a home for bacteria and other organisms to breed and lead to serious and ongoing illness.

Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis

EEA is a condition which causes the small air scacs within the lungs (alveoli) to become inflamed in an allergic reaction. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and joint pain.

The three workers suffering from the condition had been exposed to MWF mist for three years and were among a group of 60 staff which the HSE found to have been put at risk. One of the workers was said to have become virtually paralysed by the illness and the two others have become restricted in the types of work they can undertake in future as they must now avoid contact with the substance.

HSE investigation leads to massive fine

The HSE investigated and found that Martin Baker Aircraft Company (MBAC) had not done enough to reduce the risk with no system of cleaning away the excess fluid and a lack of extraction to prevent the build-up of MWF mist. In addition, they found that there was also a lack of health surveillance (required under Regulation 11 of COSHH.

In court MBAC pleaded guilty to breaching s.2 (1)Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Reg 6(1) Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 . It was fined £800,000 with £36,912 in costs – one of the highest ever penalties for occupational health offences.

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us above or the form below to request a proposal;

Contact form

Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.

Posted by Roger Hart
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