Construction Dust: Important Safety Information You Really Should Read

Published : 08/18/2017 14:45:40
Categories : Harrison Hire & Sales Posts

Construction dust ruins and ends lives every day and yet the industry is worryingly unaware. We know this is an issue that gets pushed to the bottom of the pile of priorities, but reading this article will take 2 minutes and can help to protect you, your colleagues AND ensure that you meet your legal responsibilities.

The construction industry suffers from one of the highest numbers of occupational cancer deaths, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma; a total of 3,700 in 2005. 2600 of these deaths are related to asbestos. Most people, even outside of the construction industry are aware of the risks that this substance poses, yet many builders, (particularly self-employed ones) don’t invest in the right equipment to keep themselves and their employees safe. Unfortunately it can take between 15 and 60 years for the devastating effects of asbestos to become apparent.

60 deaths a year are related to silica exposure, but where is silica found? It is very common in many construction materials such as asphalt, brick, cement, concrete, drywall, grout, mortar, stone, sand, and tile. Again, silicosis can take years to show up so the effects of silica are not always quick to be seen.

Cancer is not the only concern. Between 2007 and 2015 it is estimated that around 3,000 construction workers experienced some form of breathing or lung problems which they believed were either caused, or worsened by working with ‘dusts from stone, cement, bricks or concrete’. Unsurprisingly there is a higher incidence of breathing and lung problems in the construction industry.

Another worrying revelation from the survey was the number of workers who were not supplied with the right equipment. Damping down dust isn’t always suitable for controlling dust, so the effective alternative is extraction, yet 8.3% of construction workers don’t expect to be provided with some form of extraction equipment (instead of dry sweeping), and a further 31.9% said that this would be a rare occurrence. An employer who fails to protect their employees from risks is breaking the law.

Silica dust compared to a pennyQ: How do we minimise these risks and save lives?

A: Control the dust at source, put on a dust mask and leave that sweeping brush alone!

Controlling the dust at source is the easiest way to reduce airborne dust and reduces the amount of dust to clean. This can be done in two different ways - either with water suppression (damping down), or with a safety vacuum (depending on whether any power tools are being used). Emulsifying the dust in water is extremely effective as it stops the dust getting in the air and prevents any inhalation of the potentially lethal dust. This dust suppression is ideal for outdoor jobs and is a common feature on most leading manufacturers’ tools. Stihl’s electronic water control system is an example (see for details).

When working indoors you may need to consider dry dust extraction by connecting a suitable vacuum cleaner to you power tool. It is important that the vacuum carries the “H-Class” symbol, as this will filter out the smallest, most dangerous dust then allow the operator to empty the vacuum easily without risk to the operator. See the Karcher range of safety vacuums here

Please note that you have a duty of care to dispose of hazardous waste responsibly. Read  for more details.

Even with the best dust suppression at source, dust will escape and build up on floors and other surfaces. Traditionally, an apprentice would pick up a sweeping brush to collect the dust. This is possibly the worst thing you can do – with every brush stroke dust that may contain asbestos or crystalline silica is thrown up in the air.

It isn’t the dust you can see that does most damage as this gets trapped by the natural filters in your nose and throat. It is that invisible dust, such as that shown next to the penny that does most damage as it goes straight into your lungs. It doesn’t take much dust to cause you irreparable harm.  The following link provides more information:

Please act now – if you already know about these issues, please share this information with friends and colleagues. You know what the risks are. If you’d like advice then please get in touch or click to see our range of products. We are experts in the control of hazardous dust and we’d be happy to help you find ways of working more safely.

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