Dust exposure in the workplace is regulated via the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).
Even with the COSHH regulations in place, there are growing levels of concern that the current dust exposure limits are too high, leaving workers with the possibility of developing dangerous health conditions in the future, as well as limiting their life expectancy.
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The current COSHH dust exposure limits
If you are following the COSHH regulations, this means that dust in the air cannot be equal to or greater than 4 mg/m3 of respirable dust, or 10 mg/m3 of inhalable dust over an eight-hour working day. If the dust levels are equal to or greater than these measurements then they are regulated by the COSHH regulations and worker safety is at risk. Immediate action must be taken to mitigate the dangers.
Additionally, different types of dust may also have specific limits, known as workplace exposure limits. In these cases, the dust types must be below a certain measurement to ensure worker safety. Each WEL limit is set out in the EH40 list, which documents more than 500 different substances.
The WEL list is legally binding, as is compliance with COSHH.
The argument for lower limits
Even with the COSHH regulations in place, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has put forward an argument that the current levels are inadequate when it comes to protecting workplace health. They say research suggests that dust levels that are lower than the current limits are still significantly damaging to people who are regularly exposed to them, and that the limits need to be reduced to ensure everyone’s safety.
The recommended levels put forward by the TUC are 1mg/m3 for respirable dust and 2.5mg/m3 for inhalable.
The impact of dust exposure on our health
Many experts support the introduction of lower dust limits in the workplace because they understand the range of health conditions that can be developed when a person has been exposed to high levels during the working day, including:
- Breathing difficulties
- Damage to vision
- Skin problems
- Lung cancer
- Lung disease
In light of the increasing pool of research into these very real risks, the Health & Safety Executive recommends that dust exposure is kept to a minimum, even though there have been no changes to the legal limits.
Using AirBench to solve dust and fume problems
Many companies are now working to find better solutions to reduce dust exposure so that their staff can enjoy better health – and a healthy workforce is a happier, more productive workforce!
We provide a range of downdraught benches; fast working, simple to use and affordable, you won’t have to compromise anyone’s health or your bottom line. View our product range – pick the machine of your choice, and we can provide a free demo at your workplace if you want to take a better look.