What are the occupational risks in the textile industry? How to protect the respiratory system?

i rischi nell'industrai tessile. come proteggersi

The textile industry is one of the most flourishing sectors in Italy today and this is why it is necessary to talk about an aspect that is often neglected by the media, i.e.  the health and safety of workers in this sector.  The question which arises is: what are the occupational risks in the textile industry? … to which a second question is connected: how can workers in this sector protect their respiratory system?

Occupational health and safety in the textile sector

When speaking of occupational safety and health in the textile sector much of Europe’s legislation is made up of Council directive 89/391 and its “daughter directives” transposed into law in all Member States (LD81:2008 in Italy).

Occupational risks in the textile sector include:

  • the workplace, which must comply with the requirements outlined in LD81:2008, art. 63 paragraph 1, paragraph 2 and paragraph 3;
  • the equipment used;
  • potential exposure to substances that may cause damage to human health.

As prescribed by the aforementioned legislation, the textile industry needs to organize its spaces in compliance with certain parameters. The spaces occupied by a textile producing plant thus need to comply with some basic specifications in order to limit the risks to the health and safety of the workers. These specifications require that:

  • production units be located in different areas;
  • the workplace provides workers with an adequate amount of space in which to work profitably;
  • each workplace be provided with the appropriate escape routes.

It should be noted, however, that the risks to which textile workers are exposed are numerous and range from exposure to chemical substances and noise to ergonomics, fire risks and complications arising from biomechanical overloads. The onus is, therefore, on the employer to provide for adequate worker training in order to ensure prevention of possible accidents.

Occupational health and safety in the textile industry: Personal Protective Equipment

Whenever a risk cannot be totally eliminated or reduced by prevention, engineering or administrative controls, Personal Protective Equipment, and more specifically, Respiratory Protective Equipment (i.e. RPE), is to be provided.

Chemical substances, ranging from dyes to toxic substances for cleaning machinery, are used in a number of textile processing cycles and the machinery used in this environment is, in itself, the cause of a particularly impacting noise pollution. For this reason, PPE which protect against noise pollution should also be provided.

The Respiratory Protective Devices which employers need to provide workers have to be applicable and suitable for the purpose intended  and in the case of  yarn, thread, and fabric industry workers where cotton dust is present in the environment, air purifying respirators in half mask, full face mask or helmeted versions equipped with filters having an end-of-service-life indicator (ESLI) which signals when filters are clogged and need to be replaced, are most commonly used  to protect against exposure to harmful  chemical substances and cotton fibres, which are actually the main cause of occupational lung diseases such as “byssinosis”.