THIS WEEK is Love Your Lungs Week, a national campaign to promote better lung health, as the HSE continues its month-long inspection of UK construction sites focusing on respiratory health and construction dust prevention throughout June.
To help businesses prepare and ensure construction workers are safe at work, Arco is sharing expert advice to continue its efforts to educate business leaders about the long-term dangers of construction dust.
In the UK alone, 23 new cases of work-related respiratory diseases are diagnosed every day. As members of the Construction Dust Partnership (CDP), Arco is helping to reduce this figure by working with the CDP to raise awareness and by offering expert guidance to its customers.
Those who regularly work on building sites where there is excess dust created from activities such as tile cutting, wall chasing, stone cutting, demolition, drilling or sweeping, are more likely to be at risk from construction dust-related respiratory illnesses. However, contracting these illnesses is avoidable with effective preventative measures and the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE) or respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
Love Your Lungs by Controlling Dust
Once the hazard has been recognised, and the concentration identified through air monitoring, reasonably practicable control measures on site must be developed.
Depending on the risk, measures should be applied to each task to make sure workers are not exposed to levels over the workplace limits, ensuring the health and safety of the workforce.
In accordance with good occupational hygiene practice, the risk assessor should adopt the hierarchy of control to reduce the risk:
- Eliminate the use of harmful substances and remove the hazard in its entirety.
- Consider substitution such as using a safer material.
- Use engineering controls that work to isolate or reduce exposure of the substance, such as less powerful tools, introducing water or bringing in on-tool dust extraction.
- Ensure there are a set of administrative controls in place, such as the implementation of an effective respiratory management programme which includes correct RPE selection, face fit testing, training, equipment inspections and maintenance, storage and record keeping. Then ensure that employees are confident to use the control measures put in place and follow procedures and systems correctly.
- If these methods do not prevent or control the exposure, PPE in form of respiratory protective equipment will need to be issued and wearers will need to be face-fit tested.
Ensuring Adequate Control Measures
Carrying out regular health surveillance on workers will check that control measures are working. By monitoring workers’ health, the surveillance can identify early signs of ill-health and by acting on the results helps ensure that adequate control measures are being followed.
Kevin Williams, Respiratory Manager at Arco Professional Safety Services, said: “Construction dust has been dubbed the ‘silent killer’ for a reason, as it’s responsible for an alarming number of deaths every year. We have long campaigned to raise awareness of this issue, working with industry bodies and our partners. We will continue to help employers with the guidance they need to implement better safety measures for their workforce.”