1646c Understanding informal sector exposures and prevention

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Work-related disease is a global health and safety challenge that is thought to cause over 2 million deaths worldwide annually. In addition to this, around 160 million people worldwide are estimated to become sick every year from a range of occupational exposures. This does not only affect adults, because 168 million of the world’s children are child labourers, half of whom work in hazardous conditions. Dedication to the prevention of occupational disease motivated the creation of the non-profit organisation Workplace Health Without Borders (WHWB). The UK Branch of WHWB was formed in 2016.


WHWB members volunteer their time to offer training, mentoring and technical assistance to develop capacity for preventing occupational disease around the world. Examples include: training, mentoring, projects to prevent exposure to silica dust in agate workers and stone-crushers in India, and in brick plant workers in Nepal, Pakistan and Tanzania. In agate silica exposure reduction, low cost engineering controls using locally available materials are being considered.


Practical approaches for the reduction of exposures are necessary; examples will be demonstrated where simple extraction systems and other hygiene measures have been introduced in very challenging workplace exposures. One example of this is the use of locally purchased and built extraction fans for the reduction of agate silica dust exposures in India which have resulted in a 40%–50% reduction in silica dust levels in some cases.


It is hoped that through education, training, mentoring and raising public awareness that improvements can be made in hazardous workplace exposures across the world. Much can be achieved remotely through online training but more effort and support is required. WHWB-UK is in the early stages of helping with this but with additional funds and support much more can be achieved.

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