Textile Workers and Smoking: Damaging Their Health, the Product and Their Productivity

Textile workers who smoke aren’t only exposing themselves to a multitude of risks, they also risk damaging the clothing they’re working on and impacting their workplace productivity.

No matter what profession you’re in, smoking is undoubtedly an issue among the workforce. For textile workers and smoking, the direct risks to their health is the biggest concern, but there are also other issues when it comes to keeping the clothing free from the pungent odor of tobacco smoke. Additionally, the loss of productivity and increased absenteeism from smokers means that companies employing textile workers have a good reason to encourage as many on-staff smokers to quit as possible.

Textile Workers and Smoking – the Risks to Health

It goes without saying that whether you’re a textile worker or not, smoking is damaging to your health. The multitude of risks of smoking are widely-known, but include various types of cancer, coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and many other serious and potentially fatal health problems. These risks exist for textile workers who smoke just like they do for anybody else.

However, textile workers already have problems with obstructive lung diseases. People who work around textiles inhale dust throughout their working day and risk developing a condition called Byssinosis. This condition shares many characteristics with asthma and COPD, indicating similar damage from exposure to textiles and these conditions. Adding the risks of smoking into this makes it clear that the risks of smoking in textile workers are amplified by their already-dangerous work environment. This is particularly true because COPD is associated with smoking and textile workers get similar symptoms.

Smoking and Textile Workers – Damage to the Products

The risks from smoking among textile workers don’t stop at the workers themselves, though. It’s well-known that the smell from second-hand smoke penetrates into fabrics and its surroundings, and this includes small quantities of the harmful chemicals found in smoke.

This alone is a sufficient justification for ensuring textile workers don’t smoke while they’re working or in the same room as any clothing being made. However, due to the risks of second-hand smoke to bystanders – i.e. other workers in the same room as you – most workplaces are now smoke-free, meaning that textile workers probably don’t have the option to smoke while they work anyway.

Smoking and Workplace Productivity

Due to workplace restrictions, most textile workers who smoke won’t be able to do so while on the job. However, the broader issue of the impacts of smoking on workplace productivity still has a role to play.

Research has looked into how smoking affects productivity and the number of sick days in the workplace, and most studies come to the same conclusion: employees who smoke are more likely to miss work and are less productive than those who don’t smoke. One example study used a database of employees in the U.S. to look at worker productivity and compare it according to smoking status.

The study showed that smokers missed more days of work per year due to health conditions (6.7 days for smokers vs. 4.4 for non-smokers), lost more hours of work due to absenteeism (53.6 hours lost for smokers vs. 35.2 hours for non-smokers) and lost more hours due to “presenteeism” (76.5 hours for smokers vs. 42.8 hours for non-smokers), which is unproductive time at work due to a health condition.

In other words, smokers result in lost productivity for their employers through both the time off related to health conditions and by being less efficient while at work due to health conditions.

Helping Textile Workers Quit Smoking

For both the good of their health and the benefit of their employers, textile workers need to be offered support to help them quit smoking. This is the only way to reduce their risk of health consequences of smoking and to bring their productivity closer in line with non-smokers. Former smokers are still slightly less productive than non-smokers, but they’re more productive than current smokers.

The methods to help textile workers quit smoking are the same as those for helping anybody quit smoking. You can use medications, nicotine replacement therapy products or other types of nicotine-containing products such as e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. There is also the option of behavioral counseling to help smokers quit, which could be offered (ideally alongside one of the other approaches) as part of a workplace program designed to bring down the smoking rate.

For anybody who doesn’t want to quit nicotine use, patches, gums, inhalers, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes allow them to reduce the risks to their health without necessarily beating their nicotine addiction. This would still offer productivity benefits, because employees will become less likely to suffer absenteeism or “presenteeism” than they would have been as a smoker. Additionally, these products don’t produce odors that would impact the clothing.

Overall, textile workers are at increased risk of lung problems due to their jobs, and smoking piles yet more risk on top of this. Quitting not only helps workers’ health, but also makes them more efficient employees.