Advice for Workers
Construction dust is not just a nuisance, it can cause serious damage to your lungs. These effects can be life changing and even fatal. The biggest problem is the very fine, respirable, dusts. These can be invisible to the naked eye and get to the very base of your lung where they can have a significant impact on your health.
Are you at risk?
You are most at risk if you regularly do any of the following jobs without the correct controls:
Using power tools to cut, break, drill, core, chase, scabble, and grind stone and concrete products
Abrasive pressure blasting
Cutting and sanding wood with power tools
Sanding plaster and plasterboard jointing
Internal demolition and soft stripping.
Follow any instructions and advice that your employer gives you. In particular you should:
Use water or on tool extraction provided to keep dust out of the air and your lungs
Keep your tools and equipment in good order
Report any defects to your line manager or supervisor
Avoid dry sweeping
Damping down and extraction are not 100% effective so wear your mask so you are protected from any remaining dust
These controls are there to protect your health and your future.
Your employer has a duty to put in place the right controls to protect your health. If you think that they are not doing this then ask them about it as they have a legal obligation to do so.
Wear your face mask properly and look after it
You are most at risk from the smallest dust particles that you cannot see. That doesn’t mean they are not there. Even when you are using damping down or extraction then you are still likely to need your respiratory protection (mask).
It is easy to use a mask incorrectly, meaning it might not give you ANY protection. If you wear a mask which has to be pulled tight to your face then you must be clean shaven in the areas where the mask is in contact with your face. This will ensure that even the smallest dust particles, that can get deep into your lungs, don’t get around the mask seal. If you wear a tight fitting mask you should also be Face Fit Tested by your employer to make sure that it fits you and provides a good seal. You then need to wear it correctly each time so that the really fine dust cannot get in through any gaps.
There are other forms of respiratory protection which do not need to be face fit tested and can potentially be worn with facial hair. The most common form of these are known as powered respirators. These can combine a hard hat, visor protection, and respiratory protection – 3 items of PPE in one!
Regardless of what respiratory protection you are using, if they are reusable make sure you clean, maintain, and store them properly. Don’t leave them in a pile of dirt, inside your hard hat, or if they are disposable, wear them for more than one shift.
Why should I bother?
Frequent exposure to fine, respirable dusts can cause irreversible damage to your lungs. This may mean:
• You do not have enough breath to do simple tasks at work or enjoy your home life
• You may be unable to provide for yourself or your family
• You are regularly or permanently connected to an oxygen cylinder to help your breathing
• You are subjecting yourself to a needlessly early death.
Lung related ill health encroaches slowly and gradually throughout your working life. It can take many years for you to notice that your lung health is being impacted. By the time you notice that you have a problem with your lungs it can be too late to do anything about it.