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Home Tradesman Insights Work Right campaign highlights dangers of dust

Work Right campaign highlights dangers of dust

The HSE aim to make the construction industry more aware of the dangers of dust and fumes on work sites.

Work Right, a campaign by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), runs from May 15th and into June and July 2023. It aims to make construction sites safer by reducing the amount of dust produced by certain tasks. Exposure to dust and fumes is a huge problem in the industry and is responsible for at least 500 deaths a year.

The dangers of dust 

Dust can cause cancer and other life changing limitations such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and silicosis.

The NHS states that COPD is often associated with the elderly or people who smoke. Breathing difficulties start off mild but compound over time to become more serious. Symptoms include shortness of breath, a “smokers cough,” and chest infections.

If your trade sees you exposed to dust, fumes, and silica, you’re at a higher risk of developing COPD. And if you’re a smoker, that risk increases.

Air pollution is also a contributing factor, and if you work on busy roads, you could be breathing in fumes from exhausts.

The issue with diseases caused by dust and fumes, is they often take a long time to develop. Problems are not usually obvious, and when symptoms kick in, it’s sometimes too late.

More serious issues can be life-changing, put you out of work, and on medication for life. Issues can also lead to regular health checkups and you might need the OK from a doctor before flying. It’s therefore important to be as proactive as possible to reduce these risks.

Control your environment

Fortunately, there are steps you and your colleagues can take to minimise the number of dust particles you inhale.

What follows is an overview of the advice HSE has provided on keeping you and your staff safe.

The first step in maintaining a healthy work site is to assess the dangers you and your staff will potentially face. Assessments should be carried out on the tools needed to complete the job, as well as the staff who will operate the machinery.

It’s crucial that the user has been trained and understands what risks are involved when using tools, especially power tools. Saws, grinders, and grit blasters can be hazardous in the wrong hands and are responsible for a lot of dust.

It’s also important to make sure your environment is well ventilated. Where possible, open doors and windows to encourage a steady flow of fresh air into the space. And literally give yourself a breather by taking regular breaks.

The type of tasks you will be performing also determines how much dust and fumes will be produced.

For example, some of most common tasks that produce harmful dust particles include:

  • Cutting paving blocks, kerbs and flags
  • Chasing concrete and raking mortar
  • Cutting roofing tiles
  • Scabbling or grinding
  • Soft strip demolition
  • Dry sweeping
  • Cutting and sanding wood
  • Sanding tapes and covered plasterboard joints

There are several options available to minimise the amount of dust you’re exposed to.

Water can dampen dust clouds, but the HSE stresses that this method needs to be done correctly to work.

On-tool extraction is also a good option. With exhaust systems that fix directly onto the tool itself, or extractor units and tubing can be set up in the environment.

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)

Most trades require some form of personal protective equipment, and for professionals who work in dust-filled environments, RPE is your best line of defence. As with site assessments, it’s advisable to check RPE is capable of performing the task it was designed for. And the RPE you wear will differ depending on the type of dust being produced.

Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you’re breathing as little dust as possible.

  1. Your RPE should have an assigned protection factor (APF) of 20 or more. This limits the amount of dust that will pass through the mask,
  2. If possible, use powered RPE with extractors attached. Disposable RPE works, but becomes less effective over time.
  3. Check filters and replace regularly
  4. Masks should fit comfortably on the face, with no leaks, and be in good working order.

Again, this is a brief overview of the advice and guidance HSE has provided. For more detailed explanations on how to control dust and fumes, a PDF is available to download.

What happens if you develop breathing issues?

Equipment checks and site assessments should always be your top priorities before work begins on site. However, life has a way of throwing chaos into the mix when you least expect it. It’s crucial then, to have a solid backup when you’re faced with an injured member of staff or find yourself unable to work.

Short-term income protection insurance protects you should you become ill and unable to work. This optional cover guarantees you either £250 a week or up to 60% of your gross weekly income, which can be amended based on your circumstances. If you’re a sole trader and rely on your own income to cover the cost of illness, a protection plan is a no brainer.

Personal accident insurance is an optional cover that complements your existing policy. It includes financial support when you or a member of staff have been seriously injured. You’re covered 24 hours a day, even if you have an accident off site. Support also includes a lump sum payout of up to £200,000 following an injury. This will help with business costs, such as retraining and hiring replacement staff.

Employer’s liability insurance is law if you hire staff. If someone you hire gets injured, you’ll be liable. Health and safety on your work site are your responsibility. Your staff and contractors trust that you have adequate measures in place to keep them safe. This includes training, supplying the correct PPE, and following the steps outlined above.

Injuries are common, which is why an employer’s liability policy with Tradesman Saver includes:

  • Up to £10 million for any one claim
  • Temporary staff cover for up to 75 man-days
  • Cover for bona-fide sub contractors up to 25% of turnover

Tradesman Talks

Were you aware of the long-term damage dust and fumes can have on your health?

What steps do you take to reduce the amount of dust you breathe in?

As always, leave your thoughts below and click the social links to share this article.

Until next time make sure it’s Tradesman Saver.

Mark McPherson

Mark McPherson has an MA in Creative Writing and has been crafting content for over a decade. He writes for a range of niches, including the construction industry and insurance sector. Mark has worked internationally as a content writer and teacher.

All articles by Mark McPherson

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