In recent months it has become clear that the HSE are taking the risks involving construction dust much more seriously. Where they would previously have served an improvement notice if workers were not adequately protected from dust, they are now serving prohibition notices.
Silica is a natural substance found in varying amounts in construction materials such as bricks, tiles, concrete and mortar. Dust is generated from these materials during cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing. Some of this dust is fine enough to get deep into the lungs, respirable crystalline silica (RCS), and is too fine to see with normal lighting. It is commonly called silica dust.
Heavy and prolonged exposure to RCS can cause lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases such as silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
To ensure you are protecting workers and others from these risks you should have conducted a suitable and sufficient risk assessment on the hazards posed on site from dust. The risk assessment must include adequate control measures to protect your employees and anyone in the vicinity of the site. These might include:
- wet cutting operations;
- extraction equipment;
- FFP3 respiratory protection that has been face fitted correctly;
- wet sweeping when cleaning the site.
This risk assessment should then be communicated to all employees so they know how to work safely when carrying out activities that generate dust. Supervision must be in place to enforce safe working methods and if anyone is observed working incorrectly they should be reprimanded.
If you would like further advice in this area, please contact one of our Health & Safety Team members on 01302 341 344.