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Occupational Health


A respiratory sensitiser is a substance which when inhaled can trigger an irreversible allergic reaction in the respiratory system. Once this sensitisation reaction has taken place, further exposure to the substance, even to the tiniest trace, may produce symptoms. Breathing in the substances may irritate and cause damage to the nose, throat and lungs.

Sensitisation does not usually occur right away. It generally develops after several months or even years of breathing in the sensitiser/substance.

Substances that are known as respiratory sensitisers include:

Allergy symptoms include:

  • Rhinitis (runny eyes and nose)
  • Conjunctivitis (itchy eyes and nose)
  • Skin rashes
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Breathlessness
  • Coughing

It is important that any of these symptoms are reported to the relevant supervisor and OH as soon as they occur so that they can be properly investigated and appropriate advice given.

Health surveillance

In accordance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 Regulations (COSHH) and the University Hazardous Substances Policy where employees are exposed to respiratory sensitisers a risk assessment must be undertaken. If this risk assessment identifies that health surveillance is required, staff and students must register with OH prior to or on commencement of their work.

Periodic health monitoring will continue during work exposure and any possible allergy symptoms will be fully investigated by OH.