When working in construction, it’s important that you remain mindful of dust – especially the types that cause long-term health problems. Many workers take the presence of dust as a simple fact of circumstance on a construction site, but this can leave you vulnerable to serious health issues further down the line.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a guide on the construction sector’s dust issue, including the most problematic types of dust, the concerns they bring, and how to combat these effects.
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1. Which types of dust are dangerous?
In any construction project, there are three main types of dust that you might contend with, all of which might cause serious health issues with continued exposure. Silica dust emerges when working with rocks, sandstone, brick and mortar, potentially damaging lung tissue if you inhale it.
Wood dust is a concern when working with wood and contributes to the development of both cancer and asthma – making you 4x more vulnerable to the latter. Hardwood dust in particular can cause a rare form of nose cancer.
Finally, low-toxicity dust is present in low-silica materials, which can still cause long-term lung problems after frequent exposure.
2. What does long-term dust exposure do?
The health effects run far deeper than increasing the risk of asthma and cancer; even though this alone is likely enough to make anybody reconsider working in a dust-filled environment. Over 500 UK workers every year die from the effects of silica dust, according to government estimations.
Inhaling this dust causes silicosis, where a person’s lungs harden, which consequently results in shortness of breath. Somebody with silicosis could even struggle to go up the stairs, regardless of their previous fitness level.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is another lung condition that might emerge from consistent dust exposure – this is the 4th leading cause of death worldwide. Again, this results in extreme shortness of breath but it also brings an increased chance of chest infections and a persistent cough.
The slow progression of the illness makes people believe the symptoms are just due to getting older, making it a common long-term condition for construction workers.
3. How to manage dust exposure
Employers generally take preventative measures to limit dust exposure, compiling a thorough risk assessment that aims to mitigate the presence and risk of dust. Actively working to reduce this is a requirement under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, and often involves the use of Personal Protective Equipment or PPE.
This alone may not be enough, and dust extraction products could instead be the answer. Both cross-draught and downdraught systems collect ambient dust in the workspace, resulting in a safer environment for everybody, and air cleaning machines on top of this can effectively eliminate any remaining dust particles.
It’s essential that construction workers and bosses know how to approach the risks of dust, and take the right steps to mitigate its long-term health effects. At AirBench, we specialise in ambient dust extraction and hope to help your workplace become safer than ever. Contact us today – we can help secure your site.