October 15, 2021
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The HSE have announced the launch of a month long programme of inspections targeting construction businesses. The inspections will focus on the control measures businesses have in place to protect their workers’ lungs from construction dust including silica (created when working on silica containing materials like concrete, mortar and sandstone), asbestos and wood dust (created when working on softwood, hardwood and wood-based products like MDF and plywood).

The main dust-related diseases affecting construction workers include lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)and asthma. While some lung disease, like advanced silicosis or asthma, can come on quite quickly, most of these diseases take a long time to develop.

When controlling hazards, the first stage is to assess the risk, factors that can increase the risk associated with construction dust include work in enclosed spaces, use of high energy tools like cut-off saws, the duration and frequency of exposure.

The next stage is to determine and implement suitable measures to control the risk, these could include:

  • Measures to avoid creating dust e.g. ordering materials in sizes that means they don’t need to be cut.
  • Measures to stop dust getting into the air when it is created e.g. water suppression to damp down dust clouds, on tool extraction systems to remove dust safely as it is created.
  • Measures to protect the individual e.g. providing and wearing suitable respiratory protective equipment such as disposable or reusable masks.
  • Limiting the number of people near work that creates dust
  • Ensuring good general ventilation

You will also need to make sure workers have the correct supervision, training and instruction to make sure they know how to the do the job and use controls correctly.

Equipment e.g. ventilation, dust suppression and respiratory protective equipment will need to be maintained in good condition in line with manufacturer’s recommendations, with any filters changed at recommended intervals.

The controls you have in place should be regularly reviewed to make sure they are suitable and are effective.

The initiative started Monday 4th October 2021 and will be supported by HSE’s WorkRight campaign, aimed at influencing employer behaviour by encouraging builders to download free guidance and advice, increasing knowledge and capability to protect workers’ health. While these inspections will be focusing on the management of respiratory risks and occupational lung disease, inspectors will be alert for other hazards as well. See https://workright.campaign.gov.uk/campaigns/construction-dust/ for further information about the campaign

Please speak to your normal PIB Risk Management contact or get in touch using [email protected] if you have any questions or would like assistance with managing health risks.