Mobile app launched to track outdoor workers’ exposure to air pollution

King’s College London and the British Safety Council have launched a new app today (March 8) that provides outdoor workers with data on their exposure to air pollution.

Canairy draws on the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) pollution map created by the university and the worker’s GPS data on their smartphone to calculate the figure, which is updated hourly.

Once this exposure goes above World Health Organisation’s (WHO) limits for the concentration of nitrogen dioxide, particulates and ozone, the app notifies the user and suggests tips to reduce their exposure, including working away from traffic, reducing strenuous work or putting up a screen barrier.

Researchers hope employers will be able to access this anonymised exposure data and use it to inform how they schedule work for their employees to avoid the worst levels of toxic air.

Andrew Grieve, senior air quality analyst at King’s College London, said: ‘As a group, outdoors workers are particularly vulnerable to long-term exposure to ambient air pollution.

‘Within a workplace, the risk of people’s exposure to polluted air can be controlled using well-established methods, but this is more difficult for outdoor workers, many of whom work near or on busy roads.

‘The app gathers data from the London network, which is the most advanced urban air quality monitoring network in the world. We hope that information provided by the app can be used to inform health risk assessments and contribute to scheduling work that reduces exposure. Crucially it can also help employers and workers to monitor their progress in avoiding unhealthy levels of pollution.’

The British Safety Council is also launching a UK-wide Time to Breathe campaign with a publicity event staged in Oxford Circus, central London, on Tuesday March 12.

It will provide free resources, including posters and advice, for workers and employers to use in making changes to reduce exposure to harmful air pollution.

Lawrence Waterman, chairman of the British Safety Council, said: ‘Our campaign will highlight every employer’s duty of care for the risks from ambient air pollution. The regulator (HSE) tells us that it doesn’t regulate the ambient environment, and the recent Clean Air Strategy had little or nothing to say about people who spend their working lives outdoors. These workers are caught in a blind spot and we think their health is at risk.

‘By working with King’s College London and our members we have been able to bring technology and business together to raise awareness of the dangers from air pollution to outdoors workers. We want employers to use the information as part of their consultations with their workers and work together to reduce their exposure.’