British Safety Council is deeply disappointed with the government’s failure to meet legally binding targets for cutting carbon emissions

Posted On: 
12th November 2019

The British Safety Council is alarmed to learn about the findings of a joint investigation by Unearthed and the Financial Times which revealed that the government is failing to meet legally binding EU environmental targets for cutting carbon emissions.

As reported, official projections anticipate that although the UK will meet its commitments in relation to three air pollutants, i.e. nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), sulphur dioxide (SO2), it will miss those for ammonia and PM2.5 – the most damaging pollutant of all to human health.

The news is deeply disappointing to everyone in this country who has been working and campaigning for improvement of air quality in our cities. Air pollution, linked to as many as 36,000 early deaths a year, is now recognised as the biggest environmental risk to public health. Research from King’s College London suggests that more than 9,400 people die prematurely due to poor air quality in London alone. 

That’s why the British Safety Council calls upon the government to redouble its efforts to get back on track and put in place a viable action plan to reduce the emissions of PM2, which is particularly harmful to human health.

At the British Safety Council, a charity focused on worker health, safety and wellbeing we are very concerned about the health of outdoor workers who spend week after week in the ambient environment, breathing in toxic air. Outdoor workers face a potentially higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and acute asthma than other people who live and work in our cities.

Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “Since we are protected by law from the harm of specific toxic substances, such as asbestos, we must also be safeguarded from the dangers of air pollution. This protection should be enshrined in law as a fundamental human right.”

We hope that the new government will recognise everyone’s right to be protected from air pollution. Last week, the British Safety Council has asked party leaders to adopt the following pledges:

The next government will legislate to improve air quality across the UK including by

  • adopting a legally binding commitment to meet, as a minimum standard, WHO guideline levels for particulate matter (PM) pollution by 2030;
  • working with the Health and Safety Executive to recognise air pollution as an occupational health hazard;
  • investing in pollution monitoring so that ambient air pollution can be measured in all regions of the UK as accurately as it is in London. 

Outdoor workers have been overlooked in the air quality debate. Neither regulators or employers have committed themselves to monitoring outdoor workers’ exposure to air pollution and measuring its effects on their health and wellbeing.  That’s why, in March this year, the British Safety Council launched its Time to Breathe campaign. It is focused on the protection of outdoor workers from air pollution. The cornerstone of the campaign is Canairy, the first mobile app that gives outdoor workers and their employers insights into pollution and how to reduce staff exposure to it. It has been created in co-operation with King’s College London.

The British Safety Council will soon publish its first analysis from the Time to Breathe campaign based on the data collected by Canairy, the pollution app for outdoor workers. Using King’s College London’s world leading insights into emissions across London, the report will examine the exposure of outdoor workers to air pollution across a range of industries in 2019. Please get in touch if you wish to find out more.