The HANDS HQ Guide to Construction Dust

by Alex on July 30, 2013

Photo: cta web

HSE recently published a report on the dangers of construction dust, and measures employers can take to mitigate harm to their employees. It may be an everyday part of construction work, but with over 500 deaths a year linked to dust exposure, it’s no laughing matter.  Here at HANDS HQ, we’ve compiled our own guide to reducing the risk of construction dust in the workplace, using our unique online tools to help you along.

So what is construction dust?
There are three main types of dust produced on a construction site:

  • Silica dust- created when working with silica-based materials such as sandstone, concrete, or mortar
  • Wood dust- created when working with softwood, hardwood, and wood-derived products, such as MDF and plywood
  • Lower toxicity dusts- created when working materials that contain little or no silica, such as gypsum, marble and limestone.

These can be produced in large quantities through common tasks like cutting or even transporting materials, so taking measures against them is essential.

Why is combating dust so important?
Inhaling dust on a regular basis can lead to a range of life-threatening illnesses, including lung cancer, silicosis and asthma. Though some of these are fast-acting, others can develop without symptoms over years of working in dust-heavy environments, making them much harder to treat. The maximum amount of silica that can be inhaled daily before harm occurs is less than a quarter of the size of a penny, so it’s vital to reduce dust exposure in the workplace.

So how can HANDS HQ help?
In their report, HSE laid out a three point plan to tackle this issue- assess, control, review.

Assess- risk factors like enclosed work areas, high energy tools, long projects and regular work mean that workers are more likely to be exposed to dust. The more time a worker spends on a dust-heavy project, especially one with power tools and in closed-off areas where dust has more opportunity to circulate, the more likely they are to inhale excessive amounts of dust. Create a risk assessment with HANDS HQ to determine which of these factors need to be mitigated

Control- Use a HANDS HQ-generated method statement to lay out a course of action to mitigate these risks. Before work starts, look for ways to reduce dust production, such as using materials with less silica, using less powerful tools or different work methods. While working, try using water to dampen dust clouds, or make sure that your equipment includes on-tool dust extractors. Use person protective or respiratory protective equipment (PPE and RPE), such as suitable breathing masks to filter out dust, but remember that HSE classes this as a last resort.

Review- Check that your controls are effective. It’s all very well preparing anti-dust measures, but unless your workers know what they’re doing, your equipment’s well-serviced and the site is sufficiently supervised, the risk posed by construction dust is still large. Use HANDS HQ‘s online tools to update your RAMS documents as you learn more about your site and its hazards.

Whether your site is dusty or dust-free, health and safety documentation is always essential. Produce professional risk assessments and method statements in minutes with HANDS HQ– low cost, high quality.

 

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