The textiles industry employs more than 2 million people in Europe, the majority of whom are women. Significant hazards include manual handling, using machinery, being struck by an object, contact with chemical agents, noise, and slips and trips. The resulting health problems include musculoskeletal disorders, hearing damage and occupational asthma and respiratory irritation. This e-fact outlines the hazards and risks and the general approach to managing occupational safety and health in this sector.
Many different groups of chemical substances are used in the textiles sector, including dyes, solvents, optical brighteners, crease-resistance agents, flame retardants, heavy metals, pesticides, and antimicrobic agents. They are used in dyeing, printing, finishing, bleaching, washing, dry cleaning, weaving slashing/sizing, and spinning.
Respiratory and skin sensitisers can be found in the textiles industry, for example textiles fibres, reactive dyes, synthetic fibres, and formaldehyde. The textile industry has been evaluated as a sector with an increased carcinogenic risk (organic dust).