Workers at drive-through restaurants are being exposed to higher levels of air pollutants because of their jobs. This was recently highlighted by an investigation by BBC One’s ‘Inside Out’.
Professor Anitha K Chinnaswamy, from the Centre for Business in Society, found that vehicle emissions are a major source of nitrogen dioxide and airborne particle-matter, exposure to which can cause very harmful health effects including: respiratory illnesses; asthma; lung disorders; hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.
I agree with the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BWAFU) Parliamentary Group that there needs to be further investigations into air quality levels around drive-throughs, and the short and long term impact of employees’ exposure to pollutants in booths and windows in close proximity to sources of vehicle exhaust fumes.
Employers should work with their workers and the relevant trades unions, including the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, to ensure that all reasonable precautionary measures are taken to protect workers from the impact of such exposure.
I submitted a written question to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and raised this issue with him:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to (a) assess the effect of air pollutants on the health of drive-through workers and (b) work with employers, employees and trade unions to ensure that steps are taken to protect those workers from the effect of air pollutants.”
I have now received an answer from the Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP:
“The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is not currently undertaking any specific steps to assess the effect of air pollutants on the health of drive-through workers.
“There is a robust regulatory framework in place to protect workers from exposure to hazardous substances as a result of work activities, including airborne contaminants. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 require employers to prevent or control employee exposure to hazardous substances at work, so far as is reasonably practicable. The Regulations are supported by Workplace Exposure Limits (WELS) for substances hazardous to health including Nitrogen Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and Sulphur Dioxide, that are also known airborne contaminants.
“Tackling occupational lung disease (OLD) as a result of workplace exposure to hazardous substances is one of HSE’s health priorities. HSE works with a broad range of stakeholders including trade associations, employers, trade unions, third sector and professional bodies to reduce the incidence rate of OLD.”
I am disappointed that the Minister will not be acted on the BWAFU Parliamentary Group’s calls for further investigations into air quality levels around drive-throughs, and the short and long term impact of employees’ exposure to pollutants in booths and windows in close proximity to sources of vehicle exhaust fumes.
However, I can assure you that I will continue to raise this issue with the Government whenever possible.