Breathing Free at Work


In the Netherlands annually 3200 people die because of respiratory diseases or cancer. This is 86% of the total of 3700 people that die from occupational diseases. These deaths are mostly caused by exposure to hazardous substances. In Europe exposure to quartz dust is the main cause of occupational diseases, in the Netherlands there are approximately 180.000 potentially exposed persons.


TNO has developed an intervention called “Opgelucht werken” (Breathing free/relieved at work) that consist of a poster, an informative movie about the effects of exposure to hazardous substances, consults at the workplace, workshops, tips and tricks and a website with a demonstration about working dust-free. The intervention focuses on the organization, the behavior of its employees and the technical measures. A study has been conducted to research the effects of the intervention.


The exposure to silica decreased significantly in the intervention groups, as a result of properly carrying out the technical measures. A couple of success factors have been identified during the intervention: The management was highly involved, the intervention was integrated in the business management and there was a fun factor incorporated within the intervention. The lessons learned were that these interventions are labor-intensive and if the interventions are to endure on the long term, recurring attention is needed.

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Karen Oude Hengel
the Netherlands
  • Dust
  • Silica and quartz dust
  • Construction workers
Sector / branche
  • Manufacturing
  • Professional, scientific and technical activities
  • Other service activities
Solution types
  • 3. O – Organizational measurements