Surveillance of work-related and occupational respiratory disease (SWORD)

The scheme aims to determine the scale and patterns of work-related respiratory disease in the UK and to identify the agents thought to be responsible along with information on industry and occupation. Ongoing since 1989, the scheme has been funded by the Health and Safety Executive with the support of the British Thoracic Society and the Society of Occupational Medicine. Funding to continue data collection for this work runs to the end of 2017.

Approximately 418 respiratory physicians throughout the UK participate in reporting occupational respiratory disease. Twenty one of these are 'core' reporters who report every month; the remainder are sample reporters who are sampled at random and report for one month only each year.

For further details, see: Map showing distribution of SWORD reporters

The types of respiratory diseases reported include:

  • Occupational asthma
  • Benign and malignant pleural disease
  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung cancer
  • Pneumoconiosis

Occupational asthma

The commonest cause of occupational asthma in the UK consists of the di-isocyanates (used in various industries such as in 'twin-pack' spray painting). Other important asthma hazards include colophony fume (from soldering flux). The SWORD scheme was useful in picking up trends of concern such as a substantial increase in asthma associated with exposure to latex, and thus helped in raising awareness and reducing the risks of this problem.

Unfortunately asbestos-related lung disease - both benign (such as pleural plaques) and malignant (mesothelioma) - have been shown by SWORD to continue to have a high incidence, especially in some occupational groups.

Further information on SWORD has been published in papers such as:

Seed MJ, Carder M, Gittins M, Sen D, Money A, Fishwick D, Barber CM, van Tongeren M. Emerging trends in the UK incidence of occupational asthma: should we be worried? Occup Environ Med Published Online First: 01 April 2019. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105414


Reporting to SWORD

Details of how to report and methods of reporting to SWORD:

What a SWORD reporter says

Personal view from Dr D Fishwick.
For further details, see: Why report to SWORD


  • Asthma study
    Exploring occupational asthma diagnosis using respiratory case studies

Database information sheet

For patients requesting details on THOR, see: THOR database information sheet (PDF, 110 KB)

SWORD project assistant

The project assistant responsible for this scheme is Laura Byrne:
+44 (0)161 275 7103