A bit of washing and vacuuming is always going to get brownie points with the wife but it could also be a life saver. So just like Mr Sheen is the housewife’s hero (excuse the stereotype!), you too could be a dust buster and a superhero at work by brushing up (pardon the pun) on your dust and fumes knowledge. Blow away those cobwebs and get reading this blog.
Working in construction and the increasing use of portable power tools means that a huge amount of dust is generated in our industry. The three main types of dust are silica dust (created when working with concrete, mortar and sandstone), wood dust and low toxicity dust (generated by plasterboard, limestone, marble and dolomite). Work tasks to be wary of are cutting, sanding and grinding of materials, welding and gas cutting, burning off old lead-based paints, stripping out fibrous insulation, cleaning such as sand-blasting and sweeping of floors. Dust is a sneaky little hazard as the particles that cause the most damage are invisible and take years to develop so once it’s been noticed the damage has already been done. Past exposure to dust and fumes has led to 13,000 deaths a year due to occupational lung disease and cancer.
With you Mr Sheen dust-busting cape on, keep your eyes peeled for short time signs of the effect of dust such as coughing, wheezing, difficulty in breathing and increased production of discoloured mucus. Longer term symptoms can include persistent hoarse cough, regular chest infections, and increased shortness of breath even when performing tasks like walking up stairs. These symptoms can be a sign of COPD (chronic pulmonary disease) and can be heightened if you are a smoker.
So while you’re flying around Mr Sheen style get assessing your dusty work place. Evaluate the risks by considering the following; how high-energy tasks are (high-energy tools like cut-off saws, grinders and grit blasters produce a lot of dust in a short time), looking at how enclosed a space is (dust builds up more in small spaces), the time a job takes (the longer the task, the more dust) and the frequency of tasks (regularly doing the same work day after day increases risks). Now it’s time to dust bust!
Blast away that pesky dust by trying the following controls:
-Reduce the dust by using different materials -Use less powerful tools e.g. a block splitter instead of a cut-off saw -Plan work to avoid on site cutting -Use silica free abrasives to reduce the risk when blasting -Try on-tool extraction to remove dust as it’s being produced or try portable extraction equipment or water suppression -Limit the number of people near the dusty work -Rotate people on the dusty tasks -Select work clothes that do not keep hold of the dust -Vacuum rather than sweep -Wear RPE (Respiratory protective equipment) ensuring it’s adequate for amount and type of dust, suitable for work, compatible with other PPE, fits the user and is worn correctly.