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               Why is dust a problem?



Each year 1,000s of construction workers contract or die from respiratory diseases due to breathing in dust and fumes. Managing and controlling exposure to dust is a challenge for the industry.

Many construction activities can create airborne dust, especially from materials such as wood, stone, concrete, fillers and plasterboards. The widespread use of portable power tools has resulted in an increase in the health risks from dust in construction. The tasks themselves may be brief but over a longer period of time the dust breathed in can result in ill health.

Dust is not always an obvious hazard because the particles that do the most damage are not visible to the human eye. Also, because the health effects can take years to develop respiratory risks are often overlooked, misunderstood, or underplayed.

Regularly breathing in silica dust, wood dusts and other dusts (with little or no silica content) can cause life-changing lung diseases. Such diseases can be totally disabling, causing those affected to give up work or change their employment.

Some industry statistics

Work-related ill health has devastating consequences for individuals and their families but it is very much misunderstood or underestimated.

  • Around 12,000 deaths each year from occupational lung disease and cancer.

  • Estimated that over 40% of new cancer registrations/deaths are to construction workers.

  • Estimated that more than 500 construction workers die from exposure to silica dust every year…. more than 10 per week.

  • Around 17,000 new cases of lung problems are self-reported every year


This CDP/IOSH survey provides an insight into issues associated with on-site dust risks and how they are controlled. The findings highlight things industry need to address.

Read Construction Dust - An Industry Survey (PDF 2.0MB).  

For more information on construction dust read the HSE information sheet Construction Dust CIS36 (PDF 7.93MB (External link - Opens in a new tab or window)

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