27 Sep Dust in the workplace
In the coming weeks, starting 4th October the Health and Safety Executive will be visiting construction companies to assess the respiratory risks and the possibility of occupational lung disease to their employees.
The HSE will be checking the safety measures that are put in place to protect the employees from dust in the workplace such as silica, asbestos, and wood dust, causing lung cancer, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and silicosis. Construction workers are in the high-risk category for any of these diseases.
The inspectors will ensure that not only is the employer aware of the risks but also that the employees are aware of anything that might compromise their safety. Sadly, every year over 3,500 builders die of cancers related to their working environment, with thousands more affected by ill health from working with excess dust of one kind or another.
Even when dust inhalation doesn’t lead to fatalities it is still a serious issue because it can cause scarring of the lungs which changes the way that they function, making it difficult to breathe which is never desirable, but can be even more hazardous if the person concerned already suffers from breathing difficulties such as asthma.
Dust particles can be 100 times smaller than a grain of sand so, controlling dust can be difficult but not impossible, there is machinery available that can monitor the dust level in given situations.
If you are employed in an industry that creates a high level of dust you should always ensure that you wear protective gear including safety goggles or glasses that feature side shields or wrap-around frames to protect your eyes, and a dust filtration mask manufactured to the correct standard to protect you from the type of dust that you are subjected to.
It can take many years for damage to your lungs to become apparent, so just because you don’t feel affected on a day to day basis it does not mean that you’re safe. If you’re breathing in dust particles then your health is at risk.
If you’re an employer you should ensure that your workforce is aware of the requirements and that they have access to the necessary protection. This is your legal and moral responsibility.