This week, the Health and Safety Executive have started to roll out UK-wide dust-related inspections, with HSE inspectors visiting construction sites to assess how they are controlling dust in the workplace.

The inspections, which began on 17th June, are mainly focussed on workers’ health, and this means monitoring the control measures that companies have put in place to minimise the risk of dust exposure, as this can lead to a variety of short and long-term occupational health problems.

The HSE has advised that companies should make sure they know what risks are involved with workplace dust, have a dust-control plan in place as well as use the right controls to keep the risk of hazardous dust exposure to an absolute minimum. They have also warned that enforcement action will be taken at sites where poor standards are found.

A wide range of industries are affected by dust, but it is often more of a problem across construction, oil & gas sites, textile manufacturing, paper mills, wood working sites and mining and masonry industries, where exposure to asbestos, silica, wood and other dusts can be more common. So, how can you protect your company and its workers?

 

The risks involved with exposure to dust

There are numerous risks associated with exposure to dust and these can vary in seriousness, depending on the type of dust that someone is exposed to. If not controlled and managed properly, dust can make its way into workers’ eyes and lungs, which can create serious health risks. Hazardous dusts such as Silica, Carbon fibre and nanotubes, Resins and Combustible dust, can lead to a range of health issues from more common skin conditions to lung cancer, which of course, can be fatal. It is not only health that can be affected – dust can also get into small cracks and crevices, creating dust hazards, as well as being the reason for a variety of slip hazards on a number of different surfaces.

 

How to reduce and manage the risks:

In working environments where exposure to hazardous dust can be particularly high, sometimes even resulting in death, it is imperative to limit workers’ exposure to dust, and have effective control methods in place. This can include:

  • Correct and suitable PPE should always be worn
  • Conduct appropriate risk assessments
  • Make sure the dust produced does not become air-borne
  • Enforce company safety procedures and ensure appropriate guidance and supervision is given
  • Ensure that the workforce has been provided with the necessary safety information, training and equipment to do their jobs
  • Try to reduce the overall amount of dust created by working in a different way – this could include using different equipment or trying different manufacturing processes.
Providing an effective de-dusting system is essential in order to stop your workers having contaminated clothing and skin and even more importantly, preventing cross contamination of clean rooms, vehicles and homes. Workers wearing contaminated clothing on their breaks and journey home can result in unnecessary and increased exposure for them and all around them.

Ultimately, there should be no excuse for a company to ignore the issue of hazardous workplace dust, as they are the ones responsible for the health and safety of all personnel and what’s more, the possible outcome of ignoring the problem could be catastrophic.

Is there a safer solution for dust removal?

In contrast to compressed air which can be very dangerous, blower-driven air has been shown to be particularly effective when it comes to removing dust.

The JetBlack Safety range of Personnel Booths provides a safer and more convenient solution for all clean-down operations, helping to remove fibres, dust and water from people, surfaces and environments.

By utilising blower-driven air, the full product range has been designed as an easy-to-use alternative to compressed air, as the low pressure, high velocity air produced poses no threat to safety and can be directed at almost any part of the body. This gives organisations and users a safer solution for all de-dusting operations.

The JetBlack Safety Cleaning Booth is particularly suited to agitating and removing dust from employees’ work clothes; a process which typically takes no longer than 30 seconds. The dust is then safely extracted away from the user and collected in the HEPA H14 extractor.

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