05-08-2016

Tools are the bread and butter of any job, but do you ever stop to think about how much dust is produced or how it could affect you? It seems obvious, but dust in the workplace, whether produced by using equipment or not, is a serious issue which can not only cost a company millions of pounds, but can also cost you your health.


What is dust, and why is it an issue?

We all know that dust is comprised of airborne particles, but this can also include fumes from welding or vapours from chemicals. The Health and Safety Executive has identified "The Big Three" dusts as:

  • Asbestos - This can prove fatal and to remove asbestos you must use a licensed contractor
     
  • Silica - Produced by cutting stone or concrete, as well as using sand or gravel
     
  • Wood - Created by sawing, sanding and drilling, which includes such materials as MDF, fibreboards and soft or hard wood

These particles can have serious long term effects if not dealt with or managed on a day-to-day basis. The different kinds of dust which you inhale can affect you in different ways. For example, whilst wood dust can affect the nasal area and cause nasal cancers, silica dust and asbestos dust can go deep into the lungs and cause silicosis, asbestosis, occupational asthma or even lung cancer.
 

Could you be affected?

It's not just the obvious jobs like kerbstone cutting which are expose you to these risks. If you work in any of the following professions, you are directly at risk to dangerous dust particles:

  • Maintenance
  • Joinery
  • Bricklaying
  • Painting
  • Electrics
  • Engineering
  • Demolitions
  • Plumbing
  • Carpentry

Remember, depending on the nature and location of your job you may also find that the people surrounding you can be exposed too, including your workmates and members of the public. The risks posed by dust are not just in theory - Over 40% of occupational cancer deaths and registrations originate from construction work, over 500 construction workers die from silica dust every year, and 13,000 deaths a year occur due to occupational lung disease and cancer.

 

What can you do about workplace dust?

There are a number of steps you can take in your place of work to reduce the creation of and exposure to dust. Remember - your employer is legally required to enact a risk assessment of the task at hand when potential dust creation is a factor.
 

Avoid

There are numerous ways you can avoid the need to create dust in the first place. When buying supplies such as stone and wood, consider buying them in the correct sizes beforehand, reducing the need for cutting. If cutting, sanding or breaking is unavoidable, ensure that the products are asbestos or silica free materials before doing so.

 

Prevent

Today's technology has provided a multitude of methods to avoid the release of dust particles into the air. For outdoor site work, there is dust suppression equipment which produces a water vapour to capture and dampen down dust particles before they can be inhaled. Alternatively, you can use dust removal tools which actually use suction to remove the dust at the source of origin.


Minimise

If the release of dust into the air is unavoidable, minimise your exposure as much as possible. This includes the proper use of PPE clothing, cleaning equipment and workplaces with a washer bowser, and potentially even using zip walls to close off dust from reaching other areas.


Remember...

With all this in mind, it is clear to see that there are a large number of ways to eliminate the threat of long-term illness caused by dust. Do the right thing for your health and for your business - Lose the broom and bust that dust!

For a full range of our summer offers on tools, click here.

For Dust prevention clothing, equipment, and information, click here.

More information on Health and Safety protocol surrounding Dust in the workplace can be found at the Health and Safety Executive website.

 

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