Dust danger and control
With it being estimated that more than 500 construction workers are dying from exposure to silica dust every year, it’s hardly surprising that the control of hazardous dust emissions is becoming ever more regulated – and rightly so says Colin Hotchkiss, Managing Director at Garic.
Regularly breathing in any type of dust can cause life changing lung diseases, so managing and controlling exposure to airborne substances is a major responsibility for the industry. Yet many companies still overlook the dangers, often making decisions on whether they need to implement a dust control strategy based on common misunderstandings. These range from the dust being too fine to be a problem, especially if workers are only exposed for short periods, to wet weather which it is assumed will do the damping down ‘naturally’.
Simply put, neither of these assumptions are true. According to the HSE, the largest amount of silica dust anyone should be breathing in per day is smaller than a grain of rice. And whilst even the most miserable of rainy days may help suppress construction site dust, it does not eradicate the danger as rain droplets are simply too big to bind with dust particles.
Perhaps one of the other reasons that dust control isn’t adequately managed is the fact that there often isn’t an immediate effect upon a worker’s health. Whilst some lung diseases such as advanced silicosis or asthma can present themselves quickly, most life-changing lung disorders take a long time to develop, often causing symptoms later in life when the damage is already done and an employer is long gone. Some companies may turn a blind eye, either through an honest lack of awareness or, worse, incompetence but those who shun the responsibility of their staff’s long term health are not only irresponsible, they are breaking the law.
The latest regulations outlined in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) state that companies must assess and control the risks from dust and then review the controls that are put in place to manage them.
The regulations are very clear. However, less clear, is the most effective method on how to deal with each dust hazard. With so many dust control products on the market, it can be confusing when choosing the right equipment for the job.
A sensible course of action is to opt for a robust, adaptable system with multi-functionality and the option for add-ons to ensure that each job, which may have its own unique dust problems, can be fully catered for.
Amongst some of the most comprehensive dust control products to recently come to the UK market are a new generation of spray cannons.
Most have an extensive range of models providing a solution for every type of construction site and dust hazard.
One particular range from Garic partner, MB Dust Control, has taken dust control to another level, helping anybody who has responsibility for this area to sleep a little easier. What sets this spray cannon range apart is the development of a unique misting solution which enables the cannons to spray water particles as fine as 10 microns and as robust as 150 microns. This creates a ‘fog’ which binds together with the airborne dust, encapsulates it, and causes it to fall quickly and safely to the ground where it can be dealt with effectively through conventional means.
Some cannons are also available with a supplementary pump to enable the addition of safe chemical additives to the spray which assist with the management of odours.
As dust can be created by handheld tools in confined areas right through to large open sites with multiple dust creating activities, it is vital that companies not only treat each situation with equal and appropriate measures, but that they thoroughly research the most effective control system for each job.
With such an array of dust control systems available, from handheld cannons right through to heavy duty self-supporting systems complete with water bowsers and trailers, spray wall systems for external use and high pressure systems for indoor applications, there really is no excuse for anyone to put their long term health at risk by simply going to work.
Colin Hotchkiss is Managing Director at Garic, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of welfare equipment and plant. www.garic.co.uk
Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing
Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.
This free director’s briefing contains:
- Key points;
- Recommendations for employers;
- Case law;
- Legal duties.