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The risks of construction dust

Dust is simply a part of undertaking construction work and whilst it is a nuisance, it can also be incredibly dangerous for those in close proximity. So dangerous in fact that construction dust can not only cause life-changing lung diseases but can actually kill.

The main dust-related diseases affecting construction workers are:

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

There are three main types of dust that can be found on a construction site:

  1. Silica dust – this is created when working on materials such as concrete, mortar and sandstone which all contain silica.
  2. Wood dust – this is created when working on softwood, hardwood and wood-based products like MDF and plywood.
  3. Lower toxicity dusts – these types of dust are created when working on materials containing very little or no silica, such as plasterboard, limestone, marble and dolomite.


The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) cover activities which may expose workers to construction dust. This means that the employer must assess these risks. This risk assessment includes recording any significant hazards and how to control or prevent exposure to these substances. And there are several ways to protect workers.

Protecting workers


Water can be used to dampen dust clouds, stopping dust from travelling so far. However, if not used correctly can be completely inefficient. Enough water needs to be supplied at the right levels for the entire time that work is being done. Simply wetting the materials beforehand is not enough.

On-tool extraction

On-tool extraction removes the dust as it is being produced. This type of local exhaust ventilation system consists of several individual parts that fit directly onto the tool.

Respiratory protective equipment (RPE)

Often respiratory protective equipment should be used in conjunction with other protection methods. It should never really be used as a sole method of protecting workers. As well as providing workers with the correct masks, they should be worn properly to ensure maximum protection. The general level for construction dust is an APF of 20. This means the wearer only breathes one twentieth of the amount of dust in the air.


Dust is created from many processes including cutting, sanding, mixing, breaking and drilling to name a few, all common place in manufacturing facilities. Where possible, segregating these processes from other employees who are doing other work adjacent to the dust is ideal. Westgate’s Flexiwall solution provides a 99%+ dust tight seal and has a unique overlapping system that connects each panel to the next, preventing dust escaping.

For more information about Flexiwall for silica and dust prevention, take a look at our Knowledge Guide.

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