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HSE campaign set to tackle dangers of dust in construction

Throughout October, the HSE is conducting inspections in construction firms across the country to tackle the dangers of site dust.

The campaign has a special focus on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease and is the first time the health and safety regulator has targeted the industry this way.

Inspections will focus on how firms protect their workers’ lungs from the likes of asbestos, silica and wood dust, and the specific measures they have in place. The campaign also wants construction workers to be aware of the risks associated with the activities they carry out on a daily basis, and how they could affect their health.

HSE’s Peter Baker, chief inspector of construction said of the campaign: “Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are killed in construction accidents.

“Annually, work-related cancers, mainly linked to asbestos and silica, are estimated to kill 3,500 people from the industry. Thousands of others suffer life-changing illnesses from their work.

“Not all lung diseases take years to develop. Some, like acute silicosis or occupational asthma, can occur more quickly.

“As a result, we’ve launched this inspection initiative to find out what exactly businesses in the construction industry are doing today to protect their workers’ health, particularly when it comes to exposure to dust and damage to lungs.”

Here at Westgate, we’ve highlighted the risks of construction dust for workers, including:

  • Lung cancer
  • Silicosis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Asthma

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) requires employers to assess the risk of dust to all employees. And there are several ways to protect workers including dampening dust clouds with water, using on-tool extraction ventilation, and providing all employees with adequate respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Businesses evolve and change over time, which means that processes within the same facility often change and sometimes the space available has to be utilised for new multiple processes. For example, businesses may need to combine production and storage within the same facility, or they may begin to manufacture new specialist items. In these cases, it may be necessary to segregate dust-making processes from other employees who are doing other work adjacent to the dust. Westgate’s Flexiwall floor to ceiling partition enables businesses to adapt quickly and cost effectively to the reconfiguration of space.

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