Letting the (Construction) Dust Settle

Letting the (Construction) Dust Settle

08th February 2017

As we settle down into a brand new year, here in the UK, many of us may already have forgotten any new year’s resolutions we made, others may be struggling to keep them and the lucky ones will have found the willpower necessary to carry on with the change regardless.  For construction company owners, the New Year is a great time to implement strategies and changes that will result in both the growth and improvement of their business.  Every year, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities (Las) in Britain set out their goals for improvement over the coming year and collaborate with duty holders to improve specific areas when it comes to health and safety, based on current injury and death statistics.

This year, 2017, is the year that the HSE has chosen to turn the spotlight on occupational health and safety and reduce the rate of workers suffering from occupational cancers resulting from silica dust and asbestos exposure and increase awareness on carcinogenic exposures and the serious dangers of invisible dust.  Here at Safety Fabrications, this is a subject that we’ve already covered on several occasions in a bid to ensure that our readers are fully informed of the risks involved.

Throughout 2017 the HSE and Las will work closely with business via targeted inspections.  Statistics suggest that there is still a lack of knowledge and awareness from business owners of occupational cancers and how they can be caused by respirable silica dust (RCS) which is most common in sectors that frequently use and handle materials like sand, rocks and clay-based products.

Duty holders who are unsure whether their business produces RCS or whether members of their workforce are potentially at risk should:

·         Carry out a risk assessment to ascertain whether any employees or contractors are exposed to RCS.

·         Assess whether any RCS present are at levels below the British Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) of 0.1 mg/m3.

·         Control any potential exposure at source by directly removing particles from the air through an extraction method wherever possible.

·         Implement water suppression techniques to control dust at source if extraction methods cannot be used.

·         Ensure that the extraction machine is thoroughly assessed every 14 months to ensure effective functionality and that is complies with relevant legislation.

·         Provide all relevant personnel with respiratory protective equipment (RPE) or suitable dust masks to prevent inhalation where extraction methods cannot be successfully used.

·         Conduct face fit testing on each individual requiring RPE (ensuring they are clean-shaven) so that mask is fitted effectively.

There are more than 2,000 asbestos related lung cancer deaths every year, with a further 300 new cases of the disease reported to the HSE.  The HSE is aiming to reduce occupational cancers by raising awareness and educating business owners and staff to the risks involved with construction dusts.  For many business owners the leading reason for non-compliance with regulations is an unawareness of their responsibilities as a duty holder.  Let’s make 2017 the year that employers here in the UK take a proactive approach by implementing all the preventative measures available.