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Dust Health and Safety Hazards – What You Need to Know

“Dust kills”. That’s the theme of an ongoing campaign launched by the HSE. They’ve placed their focus mainly on the construction sector, where there’s greater exposure to silica, a form of dust that can be found in construction materials like brick, concrete and tile. 

 Does the HSE have reason to be concerned? Absolutely. The effects of dust inhalation in the workplace are far greater than what some might realise. The National Library of Medicine contains a report involving a study conducted to find out the effects of occupational exposure to dust. Interestingly, the report included the following statement, “Occupational exposure to dust, even at low doses, is a risk to workers’ health because it is significantly associated with respiratory symptoms”.

Dust particles, when inhaled on a regular basis can have irreversible effects on a person’s life. One example is given by the HSE who provided insight into the effects of dust inhalation based on a 2005 report. They stated that in that year alone, silica was responsible for over 500 deaths. That’s 500 families affected by something that could have been prevented via safety measures.  

 

What should you know about dust in the workplace? 

Dust particles have a size range. They’re either quite big or incredibly small. Smaller dust particles are the ones you need to be the most careful of and they aren’t always noticeable by the naked eye. These smaller dust particles can be split up into two groups:

  •  Inhalable dust – visible dust that causes respiratory issues
  •  Respirable dust – practically invisible dust particles. It’s much easier to inhale large amounts of respirable dust because of how small it is. Exposure to a great quantity can lead to lung disease.

 

The following are some of the health problems that dust inhalation can cause in a wide variety of industries:

  • Fibrosing alveolitis
  • Heart disease
  • Asthma 
  • Extrinsic allergic alveolite (EAA)
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Lung diseases such as silicosis, talcosis and asbestosis

 

Understanding that dust in the workplace is a major safety concern is one thing, but what can you do as a concerned manager, to ensure that day to day activities in the workplace are promoting a healthy and safe environment? 

  •  Gain a better understanding of what health hazards are

You can’t beat an enemy that you don’t understand. There are airborne health hazards that are more common in certain industries than others. Learn about what kinds of health hazards you need to protect your employees from, as well as yourself.

  • Get a risk assessment

Now that you’re better informed, you need to have a plan in place to prevent those hazards from having negative effects on your employees. One of the best ways to devise such a plan is to get a risk assessment.

 

At SML we understand the value of life and why directors, managers and employees should be working together to create a safe work environment. We can provide you with control measures as well as the training necessary to equip both you and your employees with knowledge and understanding so that all in the workplace can protect one another and contribute to a safer, more efficient work standard. Contact us to arrange a risk assessment. 

 

References:

https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/safety-and-prevention/hazards/hazardous-exposures/hazardous-dusts

https://press.hse.gov.uk/2023/07/03/hse-launches-manufacturing-inspection-initiative-focusing-on-respiratory-risks-from-silica/

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