Fostering a Culture of Happy, Healthy Employees | Construction Site Safety Education With Dustcontrol

At Dustcontrol, we don’t just offer dust extraction; we promote health and safety through our equipment, services, and educational talks. 

Phil Haskins, our construction industry specialist here at Dustcontrol, has been working here for 17 years, and has plenty of experience in the field.

Our educational talks, known as the ‘Dust Doctor’ programme, sees Phil sharing insights to businesses around the country, educating them on the dangers of dust and how to effectively combat them.

In this blog, we’re sharing key highlights from Phil’s presentations, to help you understand more about how we promote healthy, happy employees in the construction sector:

The Future of Today’s Workers

Imagine a world 30 years from now, where today’s workers have not been adequately protected from the prevalent dust in their work environments. The prognosis is alarming. 

Long-term exposure to dust can lead to chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular problems, and even cancer. 

Workers might suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or silicosis, a severe lung disease caused by inhaling fine silica dust. The quality of life for these individuals would be severely diminished, and the burden on the healthcare system would be immense.

Construction dust is a general term used to describe what may be found on a construction site, encompassing three main types: asbestos dust, silica dust, and wood dust. 

Asbestos dust, found in home insulation and other building materials produced before 1990, still kills around 5,000 workers each year. 

Silica dust, a natural mineral present in stone, sandstone, and granite, also known as Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS), is particularly hazardous. 

Wood dust, generated from sanding and cutting, includes particles from hard and softwoods, as well as MDF, which are known to cause nasal cancer.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there are approximately 500 silica dust-related deaths every year, making it crucial to limit its spread.

 It’s estimated that 10 to 20% of all lung cancer cases may have a background in the working environment, with 7,000 people in the EU diagnosed with lung cancer each year due to quartz dust exposure.

Silicosis in the UK

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), the leading scientific charity on the protection of health in the workplace, is calling for immediate action to help prevent further cases of silicosis, now being reported in the UK for the first time. 

This incurable lung disease has been known for thousands of years but, more recently, younger workers are being severely affected when working with the cutting and finishing of engineered stone worktops. 

The disease is caused when tiny crystalline particles of silica are inhaled during cutting, breaking, and grinding. Modern stone surfaces often have high silica content, creating a risk when dust is not controlled during manufacture, fitting, and demolition.

We can’t reduce the generation of dust, but we can reduce how much those working in the industry inhale.

Cleaning Machinery and Equipment: Best Practices

So, how can we protect construction workers?

It’s not just about having dust extraction equipment; for them to work effectively, they need to be used and maintained correctly.

One of the most effective ways to control dust in the workplace is by ensuring that machinery and equipment are properly cleaned after use. Here are some best practices for achieving this:

Regular Maintenance: Regularly scheduled maintenance of machinery can help prevent the build-up of dust. This includes checking and replacing filters, seals, and other components that may wear out over time.

Use of Vacuum Systems: Instead of dry sweeping, which can stir up dust, use vacuum systems specifically designed for industrial settings. These systems can capture dust particles at the source, reducing the amount of airborne dust.

Wet Cleaning Methods: For certain types of machinery, wet cleaning methods can be highly effective. Using water or other liquids can help to suppress dust and prevent it from becoming airborne.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Workers should be provided with appropriate PPE, such as respirators and dust masks, when cleaning machinery. This adds an extra layer of protection against inhaling harmful dust particles.

Training and Awareness: Ensuring that workers are trained in the correct cleaning techniques and understand the importance of these practices is essential. Regular training sessions and updates can keep everyone informed and vigilant.

Small Changes, Big Impact: Healthier Work Practices

Creating happy, healthy employees doesn’t always require sweeping changes. 

Sometimes, small adjustments to daily practices can have a significant impact. Here are some simple yet effective changes that businesses can implement:

Improving Ventilation: Ensure that workspaces are well-ventilated. This can help to disperse dust and reduce the concentration of airborne particles. Installing local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems can be particularly effective in areas where dust is generated.

Routine Health Checks: Implementing regular health checks for workers can help to identify any early signs of dust-related health issues. Early detection and intervention can prevent more serious health problems from developing.

Creating Dust-Free Zones: Designate specific areas where dust-generating activities are not allowed. These dust-free zones can provide workers with a safe space to take breaks and reduce their overall exposure.

Promoting Good Hygiene: Encouraging workers to follow good hygiene practices, such as washing hands and face regularly, can reduce the risk of ingesting dust particles.

Regular Training: Continuous education on the importance of dust control and proper work practices can keep the workforce informed and engaged in maintaining a safe work environment.

Effective Dust Control: Methods and Machinery

When working in an environment where dust is created, it’s vital to remember to pay attention to surroundings and ensure equipment is functioning correctly. 

If something feels wrong, stop work immediately. Wear PPE adequate for the amount and type of dust and work as far away from the dust source as possible, for example, by using remote-controlled machines or demolition robots.

Source extraction, the process of capturing dust as it’s created, is the most efficient method of dust prevention and can be achieved through the use of industrial standard mobile vacuum units. 

The three main classes of these units are L, M, and H, and while the HSE recommends using the minimum of M class, H class is considered best practice. 

H class extraction filters dust to a higher degree with a filter leakage of less than 0.005%. This makes it more effective at targeting respirable dusts with carcinogenic properties.

As well as using source extraction methods to prevent dust being released into the atmosphere, background air cleaners can also be used as a complementary way to further combat ambient dust issues. 

Standalone units with HEPA-13 filters, for instance, can circulate clean air back into an area used for dust-creating activities, providing even greater extraction efficiency. 

These filtered air cleaners have been tested to capture at least 99.95% of particles between 0.15 to 0.3 micrometres, being specifically built to reduce the risk of respiratory problems by filtering air of harmful particles.

Regulatory Compliance and Testing

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, specifically Regulation 9, require employers to maintain control measures in efficient working order and in good repair, with thorough examination and testing of LEV systems generally every 14 months. 

For other controls, testing should occur “at suitable intervals”. Further information is available on the HSE website, particularly in HSE Document CIS69. 

HAE, working with the HSE, recommends that testing for machines used in construction is done at a period not exceeding six months when in use.

Dustcontrol UK

At Dustcontrol, we’re committed to helping businesses create safer workplaces, and ensuring they have happy, healthy employees. 

Through our ‘Dust Doctor’ programme, we aim to provide the necessary education and tools to protect workers from the harmful effects of dust. 

By implementing these best practices and small changes, businesses can significantly improve the health and well-being of their workforce, ensuring a brighter and healthier future for all.

To find out more about how we can help your business, either through purchasing or equipment, or by Phil visiting your site, please contact a member of our team

Alternatively, why not read our previous blog to find out more about our sponsorship of the Lighthouse Charity, which seeks to improve the lives and mental wellbeing of those working in the construction industry?

Dustcontrol UK Ltd., 7 Beaufort Court , Roebuck Way Knowlhill, Milton Keynes MK5 8HL