With alerts around air pollution across the UK in recent weeks, the issue of construction dust is also rising up the corporate agenda. In a month where the latest Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for the construction sector highlights an optimistic outlook for the year ahead, it’s a great time to consider the potential implications of construction dust on the local environment and also on employees, says Dominic Proctor, general manager at Parker Merchanting.
The Health and Safety Executive estimate that over 500 construction workers die every year as a result of exposure to silica dust here in the UK. The level of dust someone should be breathing in on a day-to-day basis is tiny but the risk to human health is potentially huge. Dust related illnesses can include; silicosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even lung cancer – many of which can develop gradually over time meaning that prevention must be a priority.
For construction workers, the priority lies with the employer but it is also important to manage own personal safety. Where any new task or role is set, the priority should be a risk assessment, with factors such as space, frequency of the task and also job itself a key priority. With an understanding of the level of work required it is then possible to control the risks.
Control comes in two key forms:
- Reduce the dust and then control it, or
- Respiratory protection for workers
On the first point, HSE advises choosing building materials carefully, to reduce the level of cutting and preparation required as well as being aware of using the correct tools. Other methods such as utilising water to dampen down dust clouds and on-tool extraction can then be deployed to stop getting dust into the air.
Of greater importance for the construction worker is respiratory protection and there are a number of key things to look for. From the basic principles like choosing the right mask for the job and also the correct filters to ensuring that you have had training in order to use the equipment properly, should all be considerations. All too often, construction workers think respiratory masks are simply fit and forget, yet there are many considerations to ensure they are first suitable for the job and secondly that they are both used and maintained correctly.
To help construction workers on site and to ensure daily safety, there are a number of products to consider and it’s all too easy to pick a well-known solution. To ensure the best fit and most suitable design, consider the face-fit process.
- Don the mask – placing the straps and harness over your head and firmly pull the straps for a comfortable fit
- Where the mask features a face piece, the seal should meet the skin and therefore users should be clean-shaven during the fit test and in the product’s future use
- A construction worker should not require the help of the tester to fit the device
Once fitted, there are also a number of innovations to reassure personnel that the device is working as it should be. Innovations such as ‘Press to Check’ from JSP do just that, with the ability to press the front and backs of the filter cover to stop air from entering the filters. If the mask is fitted correctly, no air should come through and the process can be repeated if needs be.
Crucially, where health and safety is concerned, workers demand the simplest and most effective solution and there should never be any complacency when it comes to maintaining it.
Parker Merchanting working in conjunction with its preferred respiratory supplier JSP are able to offer the best advice and solutions. Their qualified consultants are able to run Face Fit Testing workshops to ensure that its customers and employees have been equipped with correct fitting respirators and have also been trained in their use. Purchasing the best quality solutions and ensuring best practice should always be a priority.
For more information on Parker Merchanting and to see the range of products on offer please go to www.parker-direct.com