Dangerous Dust

The Dangers of Dust Exposure in the Workplace

Respiratory problems are the UK’s biggest killer when it comes to occupational health. Dust exposure is often created via manual activities such as cutting, drilling or sanding but it can also enter the atmosphere via seemingly harmless activities such as dusting or sweeping. The young and elderly are most at risk from dust inhalation and respiratory illness, however dusty environments are still massive threat to those with existing respiratory conditions and healthy individuals of working age.

Why is Dust Dangerous?

Here are just some of the conditions found in the workplace today as a result of dust inhalation:

Inorganic Dust Type of Disease Lung Reaction
Asbestos Asbestosis Fibrosis
Silica (Quartz) Silicosis Fibrosis
Coal Coal Pneumoconiosis Fibrosis
Beryllium Beryllium Disease Fibrosis
Tungsten Carbide Hard Metal Disease Fibrosis
Iron Siderosis No Fibrosis
Tin Stannosis No Fibrosis
Mouldy hay, straw and grain Farmer’s lung Fibrosis
Droppings and feathers Bird fancier’s lung Fibrosis
Mouldy sugar can Bagassosis Fibrosis
Compose dust Mushroom worker’s lung No Fibrosis
Dust or mist Humidifier fever No Fibrosis
Dust of heat-treated sludge Sewage sludge disease No Fibrosis
Mould dust Cheese washers’ lung No Fibrosis
Dust of dander, hair particles and dried urine of rats Animal handlers’ lung No Fibrosis

When Does Dust become Dangerous?

The danger posed by dust exposure and inhalation depends upon several factors such as; concentration of dust and the length of exposure and size of the dust particles. It is important workers learn to recognise the early warning signs of potentially serious conditions. Notify a manager if either you or a colleague begin to experience;

  • irritation of the eyes
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • hayfever
  • asthma attacks

Do not be afraid to speak up, simply ‘putting up’ with these worrying side effects could cost you your health!

For people with respiratory illness like asthma or emphysema even tiny alterations in dust concentration can make symptoms significantly worse.

The Seriousness of Silica

Silica is particularly dangerous as it can be found a variety of raw materials such as concrete and slate. Even seemingly harmless activities such as sweeping can send silica into the air, where it can be inhaled deep into the lungs. Silica is serious! It is responsible for an estimated 500 deaths each year.

How can you Protect Employees from Respiratory Conditions in the Workplace?

A critical method for reducing the chance of respiratory illnesses in the workplace is to replace hazardous substances with non harmful ones. However, this is not always possible. When the use of a hazardous substance is inevitable other precautions need to be taken such as;

  • The correct PPE
  • Good cleaning processes
  • Use of vacuums instead of sweeping (hepa filtered vacuum bags can reduce dust output even further)
  • Controlled transportation, storage and disposal of hazardous materials
  • The use of wet processes so matter does not become airborne
  • Exhausting dust through a collection system before emission to the atmosphere
  • Education and training

It is vital that everything possible is done in the workplace to both prevent and lessen the impact of dust inhalation in the workplace. At Crystal Clean Service we do everything in our power to educate our clients about the importance of a thorough and regular cleaning regime to keep facilities as clean and dust free as possible.

If you would like any further information about our services or advice on how to reduce dust in your workplace call us on 0114 550 4010 or email info@crystalcleanservice.co.uk.

The HSE also has a wealth of resources available http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/healthrisks/hazardous-substances/construction-dust.htm.

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