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Health & Safety Information needed

I wonder if anyone can help me out? I'm a graphic designer, so am computer based for pretty much the entire working day. I've been told that I have to change offices to be with the rest of my department - Reprographics. This will mean I'll be in a room with three large, high-volume high-speed photocopiers plus a colour laser printer, countless print finishing machines etc, plus the room is very cramped, and there is very little ventilation. There are bars on the windows (bad area!) which means the windows won't open more than an inch.

I've been on the H&SE website but I can't find the documentation I really need. Am I right in thinking that this isn't going to be great for my breathing and may cause my asthma to deteriorate? I'm currently in an office with good ventilation and have gotten the asthma under control to the point where I rarely have any symptoms at all. My worry is that fibres from the huge amount of paper plus the fine grains of toner from the printers flying around might take me back several steps, or maybe even cause permanent damage. The other members of the team are in and out of the room, whereas I would be based in there all day, every day.

Ideally I'd like a document from the H&SE which clearly states that this could cause problems for someone with asthma. Would anyone know where that could be on the website?!

I'll also be calling my asthma nurse later on to see if she can advise me, and maybe write a letter to work..... any other brainwaves?

Many thanks!


5 Replies

Moving into that office sounds like a recipe for disaster !

I would state your concerns in writing to your line manager and HR department asap. Under the Disability Discrimination Act they have to make adjustments for your asthma and they should not be forcing you to move. A letter from your GP/consultant might carry more weight than your asthma nurse. If you have an Occupational Health department you could ask for a referral. Could you get a union involved ? My consultant specifically told me to keep away from printers/photocopies because they generate ozone - this is a known respiratory irritant. I also failed to find a nice clear document on the HSE website when I was having a similar argument with my ex-employer !


Thanks for the reply. Much appreciated! Is asthma classed as a disability? I'm off to print some information out about it all if I can find anything to back me up. I'm going to email the H&SE too, to see if they can advise me and point me in the right direction of the documents I need. If I ever find them, I'll post a link on here for other people who might need them too.




Asthma can be classed as a disability - see useful website : (Disability Rights Commission). I've found them extremely helpful. The HSE was much more interested in 'proper' occupational asthma - not pre-existing asthma possibly made worse by the work environment. They referred me on to the local Environmental Heath office who were not interested either. This was a couple of years ago now, so things may be different... Also see recent article on ""Possible Health Hazards From Laser Printer Particle Emissions"" .



'The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.'


Based on this definition, the asthma you have now (with almost no symptoms) would not be defined as a disability. There may be some scope for them to consider it a disability if it has been significantly worse in the past.

Of course, if it was made worse by your new working conditions to the extent where it did meet the above criteria, it would be then considered a disability and you would have the rights given by the DDA - ie your employers would be obliged to make reasonable changes to your working conditions.

I know it seems a bit illogical to have to be made worse before you can be put somewhere that won't cause these symptoms in the first place. Most sympathetic employers would be a bit more understanding and would not make you fit the definitions to the letter of the law - especially if backed up by a letter from your GP and a visit to your company Occupational Health department. After all, it is not in their best interests to have you taking time off sick.

Hope this helps

Em H


I'm pretty sure that large printing and copying machines with high output are not allowed in rooms where people work, unless there is adequate ventilation and distance from the machines.


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