Health Surveillance for Occupational Asthma

blog-publish-date 25 April 2023

As an employer, it's your legal duty to ensure that your employees and anyone visiting your premises are safe. By sticking to safety laws and procedures, accidents can be managed or mitigated.

We’ve put together a template for Health Surveillance for Occupational Asthma, this can have a serious impact on your employees.

If you need more advice and support on how you can better protect your employees, get in touch with one of our experts here.

A worker having asthma attacks  after breathing in substances at work.

What is a health surveillance?

Health surveillance is the act of repeatedly gathering health checks from your employees about their health, this will help you identify ill health that’s caused by work. This includes collecting information on whether the employee has recently experienced shortness of breath, runny nose, chest tightness, and asthma attacks.

By law, employers are required to complete health surveillance if their employees are exposed to health risks, even after you’ve put protective measures in place to mitigate risks. This is because any control measure to reduce exposure aren’t always reliable.

Health surveillance should be done in conjunction with your risk assessments and safety data sheet. This is so you can help protect them while they are at work.

What is occupational asthma?

Occupational asthma is a type of asthma that’s caused by substances used in the workplace. Employees can be sensitive or even allergic to particular substances.

When they are exposed to these substances, regardless of whether it's a low level, can be asthma triggers.

Carrying out risk assessments and health surveillance for occupational asthma can help you identify symptoms earlier and adapt or reduce your employee's exposure to substances. This will, in turn, reduce your employee’s risk of developing occupational asthma.

What is the main cause of occupational asthma?

Asthma occurs when a person's airway becomes inflamed and makes the airway narrower and harder for the person to breathe. Work-relates asthma is caused by breathing in harmful substances and irritants whilst at work. This includes wood dust, fumes (for example, epoxy resins), chemicals and animal fur.

Symptoms of occupational asthma include;

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Conjunctivitis (inflamed eyes)
  • Rhinitis (This is where the inside of an individual's nose is inflamed, symptoms included blocked, runny or itchy nose)

The signs and symptoms of occupational asthma can also depend on what substances your employees are using, and how long they are exposed to them.

Are there high-risk substances?

Depending on what industry you work in, can depend on what substances your employees will be exposed to, and each one will have risk factors.

Organic dust

These are particles that typically come from anything natural, like plants and animals. Employees who are at risk of inhaling these kinds of substances (wood dust, flour, cereal, tea and grains) are bakers, millers, carpenters, and any food or furniture manufacturers.

Animal substances

These types of substances are linked to organic dust but refer mainly to those that come from animals. These types of substances include bacterial dust, dander, hair or fur, small insects, protein dust, and mites. Sectors who are at risk of these substances are farmers, kennel workers, animal handlers (trainers and groomers), vets and jockeys.

Chemical dust and vapours

The types of substances an employee is exposed to vary when it comes to chemical dust and vapours, as they can be used in a variety of different industries. Such as foam mattress manufacturers, insulation installers, plastic manufacturing, packing materials and painters and decorators.


As with chemical dust and vapours, the types of substances an employee is exposed to depend on the industry and their exposure time to the material. The common harmful substances are chromium, nickel sulfate, platinum and soldering fumes.  These are found in metal manufacturers and refineries.

Speak to an expert

It’s important as the employer, to keep your employees safe while they are at work. If the control measures start to become ineffective, employers should reassess the use of the materials, implement measures to help protect their employees and carry out health surveillance for occupational asthma. 

Croner has a team of award-winning HR consultants who are specialists in their field. We've been helping businesses for over 80 years and our advice line is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Why not speak to a Croner expert on  0800 470 2827


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