During the month of October, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is targeting the construction sector with a campaign to audit whether measures to protect workers from dust are appropriate. The campaign begun on October 4th and is running for the remainder of the month.
Inspections are focused on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease. Are your businesses’ control measures to combat respiratory risks and occupational lung disease appropriate to meet your obligations, or is your business exposing your employees to construction dust, silica, asbestos, wood shavings and splinters?
What do you need to know
HSE inspectors have stated that their inspections will centre around health, however other concerns, including immediate safety risks will be followed up and the appropriate enforcement action taken.
Inspectors are also looking to identify incidents of employers and employees correctly identifying risks and taking the necessary measures to mitigate them with the right controls.
The HSE has also signalled a warning that they will take enforcement action to prevent risk and protect people from health conditions and injury.
Your obligations in preventing dust risks
As part of their hazardous substances guidance on construction dust, the HSE lay out construction businesses’ obligations when it comes to mitigating the risks of dust.
The Control of Substance Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations sets out that construction businesses must protect against the risks of hazardous construction dust.
Breathing construction dust over a consistent time period can lead to diseases including lung cancer, asthma, silicosis and more. Construction workers risks of contracting these diseases are higher than many, because a wide variety of regular construction tasks involve the creation of dust.
Some of the common construction tasks which create dust are:
- Cutting paving
- Chasing concrete and raking mortar
- Cutting roof tiles
- Dry sweeping
- Cutting and sanding wood
An exhaustive list of construction tasks which create high levels of dusts can be found here.
Diseases caused by dust inhalation can cause disability and death. More than 500 construction workers die from exposure to silica dust each year.
Control measures to prevent dust risks
Silica is found in many common construction materials from concrete to bricks, mortar, tile and stone.
So, tasks such as cutting and drilling pose the risk of creating dust which over time can damage the respiratory system. However, there are controls and preventive measures that can be taken to reduce these dangers.
Follow these preventive measures:
- Use a vacuum cleaner to clean dust, class M or H is appropriate, while hoses should be used to clear fine dust, especially when working indoors
- Use mechanical ventilation when performing activities which generate dust, this will reduce the amount of dust in the atmosphere
- Use water to damp dust before brushing or raking it
- Wear the appropriate Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) related to the task and environment the work is taking place in
- Chose overalls which repel dust to prevent dust catching in employees’ clothing, and ensure overalls are left at the site, or your work premises. Overalls should be cleaned and safely stored on site
Improve your controls measures for dust
If you have read this article and feel that your measures for controlling dust in your construction organisation aren’t appropriate to meet your obligations, get in touch with us today.
We’d love to hear from you, please give us a call on 01634 353677 to discuss your health and safety compliance requirements. Alternatively, you may visit our offices in Kent where we would be glad to host you, if you have an alternative venue in mind, please let us know.