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Defending Against Dust

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According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), construction dust is not just a nuisance. It can seriously damage your health and some types can eventually even kill.

The statistics are alarming. Over 500 construction workers in the UK die every year from exposure to silica dust - that’s about 10 people a week. Over 40% of occupational cancer deaths and cancer registrations are from construction workers and many more suffer life-changing illnesses. Many construction jobs, such as cutting, grinding, drilling, chasing, sawing, breaking and chiselling, can create high dust levels, especially if the work is indoors or in enclosed or poorly ventilated areas.

There are three main types of dust typically found on construction sites, namely:

  • Silica dust - Created when working on silica-containing materials such as concrete, mortar and sandstone (also known as Respirable Crystalline Silica or RCS).
  • Wood dust - Created when working on softwood, hardwood and wood-based products such as MDF and plywood.
  • Lower toxicity dusts - Created when working on materials containing very little or no silica. The most common include gypsum (e.g. in plasterboard), limestone, marble and dolomite.

If you work in the construction industry and you are at risk of breathing in these forms of dust, you should be aware of the damage they can do to the lungs and airways. The primary dust-related diseases affecting construction workers are Lung Cancer, Silicosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Asthma. Other dust-related conditions include Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer related to asbestos.

Some conditions, such as Silicosis, can develop quite quickly, however most lung diseases can take years to develop. Dust can build up in the lungs and harm them over time. The effects are not immediately obvious but by the time it is noticed, the damage may already be serious and life-changing. It may mean permanent disability and early death.

There are simple measures that can be followed to reduce the risks:

  • Before work starts, consider ways of stopping or reducing the amount of dust you might create
  • Use the right size of building materials to minimise cutting
  • Keep tools and equipment in good working order
  • Use sheeting or temporary screens to enclose the work
  • Water damps down dust clouds, so use water suppression equipment
  • Use on-tool extraction equipment which removes dust at source
  • Use Class H or Class M dust extraction equipment
  • Avoid dry sweeping
  • As a last line of defence, use properly fitting and well maintained PPE

At A-Plant, we are firmly committed to helping reduce the risks workers are exposed to, whilst helping increase productivity on-site, with product and service solutions that greatly reduce exposure to dust in many every day jobs on construction sites. We offer one of the hire industry’s widest ranges of equipment for water suppression, on-tool extraction and dust extraction, as well as PPE. Many of our power tools are designed to maximise the amount of dust removal at source and collect it efficiently with a vacuum removal system. For further guidance, request a free copy of the ‘A-Plant Guide to Dust Control’ by calling 0370 050 0797, or download here.

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