Respiratory Health

Each year in the construction industry, there are thousands of preventable cases of ill health caused by lung disease due to past exposure to dust at work. These diseases often have a life-changing impact and can result in an early death. HSE has partnered with construction and occupational health organisations to highlight the control measures required on site to prevent exposure to dust.

What could this mean for your business?

Starting on Monday 6 June 2022, site inspections will have a specific focus on dust control, checking employers and workers know the risks, plan their work and are using the right controls. The HSE are particularly targeting construction sites as part of a month-long respiratory health initiative. Throughout June, inspections supported by HSE’s Dust Kills campaign will focus on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease.
It may not just stop at construction sites. Here at The AP Partnership we are finding that more and more industries that are prone to generating wood or metal dust/swarf are being visited by the HSE with focus on those particular areas.

The primary aim of the inspection initiative is to ensure workers’ health is being protected. However, if safety risks or other areas of concern are identified, inspectors will take the necessary action to deal with them – therefore their inspections may also highlight other areas unrelated to the respiratory topic which could also result in notices and fines for any breaches of legislation.

How can you control dust?

Dust is covered under The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 and require that you protect workers from the hazards of wood dust. Hardwood dust can cause cancer, particularly of the nose. Softwood can cause occupational asthma. Settled dust contains the fine particles that are most likely to damage the lungs. Metal dust can cause respiratory problems, lung deterioration and cancers.

  • Keep wood/metal dust below the Workplace Exposure Limit.
  • Ensure extraction by either Local Exhaust Ventilation systems, or on tool extraction.
  • Communicate with your staff – educate them on the dangers of wood dust and how to protect themselves. Staff should be trained in using the extraction systems.
  • Provide the correct level of PPE/RPE for the task and the individual – remember it is Personal Equipment and must fit the needs of the individual.
  • Do not allow dust and swarf to build up on the floors or machinery.
  • Enforce the site rules.
  • Have a suitable Health Surveillance program in place for those staff working with dust.

Remember – It is your duty to ensure that your employees are kept safe, and that they do not suffer ill-health as a result of work activities.

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