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New Series of Inspections by The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Focusing on Dust Control

Health and Safety Executive HSE logo

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is currently on a massive inspection spree regarding dust control in work environments. The HSE dust control checks are part of a campaign towards the establishment of safer and healthier workplaces. The HSE inspections were to follow a recent statement from the chief medical officer at HSE, Professor David Fishwick, who said:

“Exposure to asbestos, silica, wood, flour and other dust can have life-changing consequences. Each year work-related lung diseases linked to past exposures are estimated to kill 12,000 workers across Great Britain. In many cases, these diseases take a long time to develop after exposure, so the damage done may not be immediately obvious.

Others, such as occupational asthma and acute silicosis, can occur more quickly. These conditions can and do have a significant impact on both the individuals affected and those closest to them, so it is imperative that workers take the necessary precautions to protect their lungs.”

The HSE inspections on dust control in UK will target the proper implementations of dust control systems in facilities, where they believe such systems are mandatory. The goal is to ensure that every business is fulfilling its legal duties to protect workers from harm.

Workers in the construction industry, bakeries, paint shops and those that do any woodworking will most likely be visited by a team of inspectors. Also, for boat building facilities, because of the amount of sanding related to the production method and in fixing vessels, there will be regular checks. The work of the HSE inspectors will be to see if the correct masks are being distributed amongst workers, is there a dust control system installed in the facility, is there a manager on site that supervises for proper woodwork dust control methods, etc.

Note that RPE – respiratory protective equipment is not separated from DPPE – personal protective equipment and it is keen to have RPE distributed amongst the workers.

What could be the consequences of improper dust control at workplaces with high dust contamination?

Although the lungs have the protective function of clearing themselves from dust particles, the excessive inhalation of different materials could lead to lung-related diseases. They differ in relation to the time of exposure and the material from which the dust was.

Organic dust:

  • Soil
  • Wood
  • Flower pollen
  • Mouldy straw
  • Bird feathers

Example diseases from inhaling organic dust contaminated with microbes:

  • Histoplasmosis
  • Psittacosis
  • Q fever

Inorganic dust

  • Grinded metal and minerals
  • Silica
  • Asbestos
  • Coal
  • Plastic
  • Etc

Example diseases from inhaling inorganic dust:

  • Asbestosis
  • Silicosis
  • Coal Pneumoconiosis
  • Hard metal disease

So any industry that generates the above mentioned and other dusts should expect an HSE dust control check.

How to be Prepared as a Business

As a business that operates in such a niche, constantly working in dusty environments, you need to be well familiar with methods to keep your employees safe. Guidance on how to do that can be found within the COSHH Regulation, that you can find on the website of HSE.

When it comes more specifically for construction workers, you can find more guidance within the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS)’s campaign “Breath Freely”. Within this campaign, the BOHS has developed a tool for managers with which they can prevent exposures of employees to the risks from construction work that cause ill health and disease. This tool is called “HI Standard”, in which “HI” stands for “Health in Industry”.

It is not enough for managing staff to be prepared and RPE materials to be distributed. As a business owner, you need to ensure that your employees are well prepared and trained to work in such ways that the exposure to dust is brought to a minimum. Regular training must be planned. Constant overlook of work processes and the implementation of dust suppression methods and dust control systems is mandatory.