Can Cotton be Dangerous to Clothing Manufacturers?
Many of the articles of clothing enjoyed by Americans are made from cotton. In fact, the 100% cotton label is one that is desired because it usually means that the clothing is soft and will last for a long time.
However, the manufacturing of cotton apparel is risky. It is well documented that the exposure to cotton dust can lead to significant health problems and fatalities. Cotton dust is dangerous because as cotton is handled and manufactured into clothing the dust that is created includes bits of bacteria, fungi, pesticides and other materials that were associated with the cotton plant.
Workers who are repeatedly exposed to cotton dust develop serious lung problems. The earliest symptoms may include trouble breathing, a cough or a tightening of the chest. Repeated exposure may cause a worker to develop byssinosis, also known as brown lung disease.
OSHA requires that the amount of cotton dust in the air be limited. The amount varies according to the particular industry. OSHA recommends several ways in which employers can properly handle dust so as to minimize the negative health effects on workers. Those measures include proper cleaning and ventilation systems and the proper handling and disposing of dust.
Workers who develop byssinosis may have trouble breathing and completing normal everyday activities. They may require breathing treatments and oxygen therapies. At advanced stages, byssinosis sufferers may experience permanently decreased lung function. For these reasons, it is important to prevent this serious occupational injury from occurring to the greatest extent possible.
Hearing Loss in the Apparel and Footwear Industry
The gentle hum of your mother’s sewing machine or the click of your grandmother’s knitting needles may invoke images of a quiet and peaceful environment in which beautiful articles of clothing are created. While that may be true at home, it is not an accurate description of the commercial apparel and footwear industry.
Clothes that are made in commercial factories are made on big and loud machines, often in large factory settings where all of those machines are in close proximity to one another. Together, the machines can create enough noise to result in hearing damage.
Hearing loss can be avoided if both employers and employees are aware of the risk and the steps that need to be taken to protect employees. Those steps include measuring the noise in the work environment and minimizing it as well as providing employees with hearing protection equipment.
OHSA standards regarding hearing loss prevention apply to the apparel and footwear industry, as well as other industries. It is important that employers comply with OSHA standards because hearing loss can be an injury that occurs over a long period of time with few symptoms. An employee may experience no pain or discomfort but still have his or her hearing traumatically effected. It is not until significant and often irreversible damage has been done that an employee is aware that anything is wrong. Therefore, it is important for employers to be proactive and to take all necessary steps to minimize the risk of noise related injuries for apparel and footwear employees.