Dust the job!

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If you’re a busy builder, working on a construction site day in day out, construction dust may seem like the norm to you. But it can be a serious risk to your health.

Construction dust is a general term used to describe what may be found on a construction site, and it can cause real damage to your lungs. If you’re exposed to construction dust you could be at risk of developing Asthma, Silicosis, and Cancer.

What are the different types of Construction Dust?

  1. Silica dust – Silica is a natural mineral, present in large quantities and is found in sand, sandstone and granite. It is also commonly found in many construction materials such as concrete and mortar. The silica is broken into very fine dust during many common tasks such as cutting, drilling and grinding.
  2. Non-silica dust – There are a number of construction products where silica is either not found or present in small quantities. The most common ones include gypsum, cement, limestone, marble and dolomite. This dust is also mixed with silica dust when cutting things like bricks.
  3. Wood dust – Natural wood products are widely used in construction and are found in two main forms; softwood and hardwood. Processed wood-based products are also commonly used including MDF and chipboard.

Over 500 construction workers are believed to die from exposure to silica dust every year, the amounts needed to cause this damage are minimal. The amount of silica someone should be breathing in daily, after following safety measures, is less than the size of a penny.

What can I do to control Construction Dust?

  1. Plan your work – Don’t cut materials if it’s not essential to do so. If you have no choice, try using a less powerful tool, or use the right size building materials so less cutting is required.
  2. Stop dust from getting into the air – The use of water will dampen down the dust cloud – although, for this to be affective it needs to be done properly (consider reading up on how to dampen down a dust cloud before starting your project).
    Invest in some specially designed “Vacuum Extraction” tools, designed to extract the dust, as its being created, storing the dust until it is safe to be emptied.

Make sure you’re protected. If you work on a construction site and are regularly exposed to dust you need to invest in a facemask. Speak to your employer and make sure your mask has the right amount of protection and fits your face properly. If it doesn’t, you stand the risk of dust seeping through any gaps.

For more information on how to keep you and your colleagues protected on a construction site, read the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guide to construction dust.

Article compiled by: Laura Pay-Savage

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