Are you a Dustbuster?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently launched their Dustbuster campaign which aims to increase awareness of the health hazards associated with dust exposure and ensure employers are taking appropriate steps to manage the risks.  The Dustbuster campaign will initially focus on the construction, woodworking and food manufacturing industries.  HSE inspectors will visit businesses to check what measures have been put in place to protect workers’ lungs from the likes of asbestos, silica, wood and flour dust.

Why is dust dangerous?

Dust can be a hazard in almost every industry although asbestos, flour, grain, silica and wood are recognised as the most hazardous.  Continued and excessive exposure to these types of dust can cause long term and life altering health problems such as lung cancer or asthma.  Dust and its effect to health is not always an obvious safety concern as dust can be almost invisible to the naked eye and the health effects of exposure can take years to develop.  

Do I have a dust problem?

Visible dust on surfaces and machinery can indicate a problem however, as dust can be airborne there are simple checks which can help assess whether there is a problem.  Ask yourself:

  1. Is the material workers are handling and located around naturally dusty?
  2. Does the work create dust by mechanical or other means?
  3. Is dust likely to be disturbed?

How do I become a Dustbuster?

As with most health and safety risks, the risks of dust exposure needs to identified, eliminated where possible and control measure put into place through a risk assessment.  The HSE summarises the key points of dust management as:

  • “Design and operate processes and activities to minimise emission, release and spread of substances hazardous to health.
  • Take into account all relevant routes of exposure – inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion – when developing control measures.
  • Control exposure by measures that are proportionate to the health risk.
  • Choose the most effective and reliable control options which minimise the escape and spread of substances hazardous to health.
  • Where adequate control of exposure cannot be achieved by other means, provide, in combination with other control measures, suitable personal protective equipment.
  • Check and review regularly all elements of control measures for their continuing effectiveness.
  • Inform and train all employees on the hazards and risks from the substances with which they work and the use of control measures developed to minimise the risks.
  • Ensure that the introduction of control measures does not increase the overall risk to health and safety.”

Need further advice?

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