Why Are Bakers at Such High Risk of Work-Related Asthma?

Posted on: 7 mins read
Last updated:
Simon Rosser

Personal Injury & Disease Litigation Solicitor

Share Article:

Bakers are regularly exposed to irritants that when inhaled can cause asthma, such as wheat flour and rye flour.

Flour dust and enzymes containing additives such as amylase can sometimes trigger an allergic response, so it’s important for employers to prevent exposure where possible.

This could include keeping premises properly ventilated and equipping staff with masks and other protective equipment.

But unfortunately, because the inhalation of these irritants is so common the asthma that people suffer because of it has come to be known as Baker’s Asthma or Bakers Lung, and it’s one of the most well-known work-related illnesses.

If you’ve developed Baker’s Asthma and believe it’s because your employer didn’t do enough to keep you safe, you may have grounds to claim compensation.

Call our specialist Industrial Disease Solicitors for a free claims assessment, and we’ll be happy to speak with you. We can discuss how we can help you and let you know straight away if your claim has a good chance of success.

flour spread out on a dark background

Get in touch today!

To see how we can help you claim compensation for work-related asthma, call our team today on 0808 239 0144 or

How Do You Know if You Have Baker’s Asthma?

As with most diseases, there are a range of symptoms associated with Baker’s Asthma, including:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Restricted chest movement

When you first start to develop these symptoms, they might only affect you while you’re working around flour and immediately afterwards.

But if you continue to be exposed to the flour, the symptoms may become constant and debilitating, even without continuing exposure.

Some early symptoms of Baker’s Asthma which might indicate you’ve been exposed to flour and developed an allergy include:

  • Dermatitis - sore and red skin
  • Conjunctivitis - inflammation and irritation of the eyes
  • Rhinitis - inflammation and irritation of the inside of the nose
  • Sneezing

These symptoms might be an early warning sign that your body is having a reaction to the flour you’ve been exposed to at work.

The eyes, skin, and nose usually become affected before the flour starts to affect your lungs and airways.

If you’ve suffered from any of these symptoms within the last 3 years, you might have occupational asthma and may well be entitled to compensation.

If so, please contact our specialist Industrial Disease Team for a free claims assessment and we can discuss the matter further. Ask us if we can help you on a No Win, No Fee basis.

Baker’s Asthma Case Study

HSE reported that a 51-year-old man who worked in a bakery for 20 years experienced wheezing, coughing, and breathlessness. The gentleman noticed that his symptoms had been slowly getting worse over a span of 15 years.

He noted that his eyes would become red and watery, but his symptoms would improve drastically after spending extended periods of time away from work. While he had been diagnosed with asthma, his doctor hadn’t connected it with his job.

Eventually, it was the gentleman’s trade union representative who considered that it may be linked with his job, and that he may have Baker’s Asthma.

After undergoing several tests, it was highlighted that his symptoms were improved over the weekends and if he had a holiday from work. This indicated that he had developed an allergy to flour dust.

As a result, it was arranged for him to move to a different working area, away from the flour dust as much as possible. His employers took further action by introducing additional extractions in the building and issued him with the relevant respiratory protective equipment.

a baker mixing eggs and flour

How Common is Asthma Among Bakers?

It’s a fact that bakers and flour confectioners take the top spot when it comes to work-related asthma.

According to a study by Extraction Solutions, the number of asthma cases among bakers is 83.1 times what you’d expect to see in other occupations.

The study also ranked baking as the most dangerous occupation in the UK, which highlights the urgent need for employers to put staff safety first.

Other occupations that are heavily linked to staff developing asthma include:

  • Vehicle paint technicians
  • Plant and machine operatives
  • Cooks
  • Hairdressers and barbers
  • Metal making and treating process operatives
  • Assemblers of electrical products
  • Beauticians
  • Welding
  • Veterinarians

An Answer to Bakery Exposure?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently reported on a large bakery (Bakkavor Bread) that switched from using normal flour to low-dust flour for dusting.

When they were using normal flour, their staff were having to wear respiratory protective equipment to protect them from breathing in flour dust.

Since making the change, staff have no longer had to wear respiratory protective equipment on site, and they feel more comfortable and better able to communicate.

But the biggest benefit has been a significant reduction in the risk of breathing in flour dust and developing Baker’s Asthma.

The HSE pointed out that while protective equipment does offer protection, it’s “generally uncomfortable and used as a last resort”.

But making this change in production methods has meant staff no longer have to wear protective equipment and this has brought with it cost savings for the business. It has also freed up the hygiene staff so they can focus on other tasks, as they are no longer required to clean the operating line as frequently.

It’s creative solutions such as this, along with a clear focus on the health and safety of employees, which can reduce the number of cases of Baker’s Asthma and make it a much safer occupation in the future.

Benefits of Switching to Low Dust Flour

As we’ve discovered already, there are some key advantages to both staff members and the business overall when they switch to using low dust flour. Here are some more things to look forward to if you make the switch:

Reduced Food Waste

Bakkavor Bread have reported that after switching to using low dust flour, they were using less flour than they previously did. Not only can this change reduce how much flour you need, but it can also reduce food waste too.

When using normal flour, sometimes the inner layers of the dough can stick together, not allowing it to be uncoiled. When this happens, the batch needs to be disposed of. But low dust flour prevents this from happening.

Less Cleaning

When normal flour is being used, cleaning staff would be required to clean the conveyor line frequently to remove any sticky residue that had been left behind. But with low dust flour, the cleaning time has been reduced significantly. The overall cleaning time is faster as there is no sticky residue on the conveyor belt, which allows staff to focus on other tasks.

Product Quality

When an ingredient is changed, there’s often concerns raised by the company and customers over the taste difference. It’s a valid worry, which is why low dust flour has undergone some testing.

Low dust flour has gone under rigorous testing and there are no additional ingredients to be reported at all, as it’s still wheat flour. It contains the exact same ingredients, but simply has less dust. There have also been no reported taste differences as well, which is a huge benefit to everyone. It would appear that low dust flour offers only positive changes, with no negative impact to factor in.

Reduced Maintenance

As there is less cleaning required due to leftover residue, there has also been a reduction in how often equipment and machinery breaks down or needs to be repaired. There are significantly less flour particles going into the machinery, so there’s very little going wrong in the production line.

two people passing a clipboard between them

How We Can Help You

Have you developed Baker’s Asthma as a result of your employer not following their statutory duty of care? If so, you may be able to claim compensation.

Initially, we will offer you a free claims assessment with one of our Industrial Disease Solicitors, who will determine the likelihood of your case being successful. If we are happy to take on your case, we’ll advise you of all the legal steps.

While compensation won’t put it right, especially is your Baker’s Asthma has become debilitating, but it will make sure that your employer recognises the mistakes that they have made. It’ll also go a long way in making sure that they implement better provisions for you and the rest of their staff in the future.

Our expert solicitors are experienced in dealing with thousands of cases like yours, so we are confident that we can secure you the compensation that you deserve. We also strive to settle your case, where possible, outside of Court to ensure that it is finalised in good timing.

We’ll support you throughout the entire process and make sure you are updated at every step of the way. We understand that legal jargon can be confusing, so we will also make sure that we only communicate with you in plain English. If you ever have any questions at any point, you are welcome to get in touch with your dedicated solicitor to speak about the progress of your claim.

Get in touch with us today to arrange your free claims assessment to find out what you could be eligible to receive.


www.hse.gov.uk. (n.d.). Safety representative spots bakers asthma – COSHH. [online] Available at: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/casestudies/baker.htm.

www.hse.gov.uk. (n.d.). Baker and flour dust - Case studies - Asthma - HSE. [online] Available at: https://www.hse.gov.uk/asthma/baker.htm.

bakeryandsnacks.com (2020). Bakers and flour confectioners take top spot as UK’s most dangerous occupations. [online] bakeryandsnacks.com. Available at: https://www.bakeryandsnacks.com/Article/2020/10/09/Bakers-and-flour-confectioners-take-top-spot-as-UK-s-most-dangerous-occupations

ESL (n.d.). The Most Dangerous Occupations in the UK | Blog. [online] Extraction Solutions. Available at: https://extractionsolutions.co.uk/portfolio-items/the-most-dangerous-occupations-in-the-uk/

Get in touch, today!

Fill in the form below to get in touch with one of our dedicated team members, or call our team today on: 0808 239 0144

This data will only be used by Simpson Millar in accordance with our Privacy Policy for processing your query and for no other purpose