At the hospital or clinic

This information is for people that work as healthcare professionals, healthcare assistants, care home workers and cleaners. It gives information on things in the workplace that could damage the lungs and advice on how to protect them.

What are the hazards?

These are some of the hazards you may come into contact with at work.

  • Cleaning products


    • Benzalkonium chloride (quaternary ammonium compound) - found in disinfectants and cleaners for floors and hard surfaces
    • Chlorine-based agents (sodium hypochlorite) - the main ingredient in bleach
    • Chlorhexidine - a disinfectant used to prepare skin for surgery and to clean surgical instruments
    • Chloramines - a chemical compound (mixture) that is created when certain cleaning products come into contact with urine and sweat
    • Some scents within cleaning products e.g. limonene, which gives some products a citrus smell
    • Isothiazolinones - used in some washing up liquids and laundry washing liquids
  • Surgical smoke

    Some types of surgery, using tools that produce heat from an electric current, can give off toxic gases, particles and vapours. These are usually invisible.

Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung conditions like COPD and lung cancer

If you smoke, you will be at a much higher risk of developing a lung condition.


How can your health be affected?

How to protect yourself

Your employer has a responsibility to ensure the work environment is appropriately ventilated and that you are provided with protective clothing and appropriate safety advice.

Here are four easy things you can do to ensure you're doing everything you can to protect your lung health at work.

  • Assess Risk

    Do risk assessments to make sure you are doing jobs safely and efficiently.

  • When cleaning

    Use wipes not sprays so that you are putting less chemicals into the air for you to breathe in.

    Check ingredients in cleaning products and avoid those that will put you at risk.

    Follow label instructions about the safe use of chemicals.

    Take care when taking equipment out of washer/disinfector machines, as when they are opened they let out steam which could contain irritants.

  • Ventilation

    Ventilate (allow cleaner air into the room, e.g. by opening doors and windows) during and after using cleaning products.

  • Health check-ups

    Get your health regularly checked – either through a health scheme at your workplace, or by regularly seeing a healthcare professional.

More information