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The risks associated with commercial baking

Bakers in New York are at increased risk of developing baker's asthma, which is a fairly common occupational respiratory disorder. In order to reduce workers' compensation claims, employers need to be aware of prevention strategies and employees should to know the symptoms involved so they can minimize the damage and get help right away.

The World Allergy Association states the workers who are at the highest risk of sensitization are bread formers, dough makers and bread bakers because they are in close contact with allergens when they sieve, weigh and mix ingredients. Common allergens in this occupation include wheat, barley, rye, cereal malt flours and buckwheat. Eggs, cacao, almonds, chocolate, hazelnuts and milk are also ingredients that are associated with sensitization. Common symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Nasal congestion 

According to Health Central, there are a number of steps employers can take to make the working environment safer for bakers. One is to minimize the use of allergen substances, or substitute a less harmful ingredient. Installing ventilation and enclosing dust-producing machinery can help cut down risk tremendously. Cleaning up properly, such as using a vacuum and wet-scrubbing, is important to minimize dust. Face masks and other protective gear should also be provided for workers.

Testing dust levels and air quality on a regular basis can help employers and workers take extra caution when levels are higher. Teaching bakers techniques on how to keep dust levels low is also a good tactic. This may include carefully placing bags of flour on the counter to prevent large dust clouds or starting commercial mixers slowly until the flour has mixed with the wet ingredients.

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