HSE Inspectors Visiting Construction Sites Across Great Britain Part 1

HSE Inspectors Visiting Construction Sites Across Great Britain Part 1

Oct 26 2021 4:06PM

Introduction

Dust is one of the biggest killers within the construction industry, over 3500 builders die each year from cancers related to their work. Even though dust may not kill instantly it has the potential to years down the line.

The HSE is undertaking a month-long initiative, starting Monday 4th October. Where they will be visiting construction sites of all sizes to check that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers lung health from exposure to dust.

What is Dust?

Dust particles can be 100 times smaller than a grain of sand; they do not need to be seen to be inhaled. Once the dust is within the lungs it will start causing damage.

Within construction there are three main types of dust, these are:

  • Silica dust - This is a natural mineral that is present within sand, sandstone, and granite. But more commonly within construction found within concrete and mortar. The silica is broken into a very fine dust during operations such as cutting, drilling, and grinding.
  • Non-silica dust – Sometimes there are products where silica is either not found or is present but in very small amounts. The most common construction materials include gypsum, cement, limestone, marble, and dolomite. Dust is also mixed with silica dust when cutting bricks.
  • Wood dust – There are two different forms of wood that is used in construction these are hardwood and softwood. Wood-based products such as MDF and chipboard are also used.

Causes of Dust in Construction

Many construction tasks create high levels of dust from cutting, drilling, demolishing, sanding, shovelling or dry sweeping. If any of these activities are undertaken on the site, then steps need to be taken to control the risks to workers.

Health Effects Associated with Dust

Construction workers have a high risk of developing the following diseases due to the majority of activities on a construction site creating a high level of dust. The main dust related diseases affecting construction workers are:

  • Lung cancer
  • Asthma
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Silicosis

Why is the HSE Focusing on Dust?

  • This month the HSE will be undertaking more than 1000 site visits to assess the effectiveness of measures in place to control workers exposure to respiratory risks from dust. The findings will feed into the HSEs broader commitment to improve the health of construction workers and will provide the HSE with a wider dataset to evaluate ongoing practices across the industry.
  • The HSEs inspection will focus on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease, looking at the control measures businesses have in place to protect their workers from construction dust including silica, asbestos, and wood dust.
  • This can be evidenced through employers and workers knowing the risks of dust, planning their work appropriately and using the right controls. If necessary, the HSE will use enforcement to ensure people are protected. However, it is important to note that the HSE inspector is not just focusing on dust, if they see anything else that could cause immediate risk to health then they will take necessary action.​

Read more in Part 2 of this blog.

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