HSE Inspection Campaign
HSE inspectors will, over the next few weeks, be focusing some of their time and effort on construction, woodworking and food manufacturing where occupational lung diseases, including in some cases occupational cancers, are more common. They will be asking what measures have been put in place to protect workers’ lungs from the likes of asbestos, silica and wood dust.
Inspectors are visiting businesses across the country to see what measures have been put in place to protect workers’ lungs from the likes of asbestos, silica, wood and flour dust. They will be looking for evidence of businesses and their workers knowing the risks, planning their work and using the right controls. Where necessary, HSE will use enforcement to make sure people are protected.
HSE chief medical officer David Fishwick 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.
HSE chief inspector of construction Sarah Jardine added:
We are carrying out this series of inspections to ensure businesses are fulfilling their legal duties to protect workers from harm. This includes controlling the levels of dust in workplaces.
We want to ensure employers and their workers are aware of the risks associated with any task that produces dust. Such work needs to be properly planned and use the right controls, such as water suppression, extraction and masks.
The bottom line is we want everyone, workers and their employers, to be protected from harm and ill health so they can go home healthy to their families.
HSE Publication: Construction Dust
Construction dust is not just a nuisance; it is a real risk to your lungs. Regularly breathing construction dust can cause diseases like lung cancer, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and silicosis. Construction workers have a high risk of developing these diseases because many common construction tasks can create high dust levels.
These diseases cause permanent disability and early death. Over 500 construction workers are believed to die from exposure to silica dust every year.
Construction Dust is a general term used to what may be found on a construction site. There are three main types:
- Silica dust – Silica is a natural mineral present in large amounts in things like sand, sandstone and granite. It is also commonly found in many construction materials such as concrete and mortar. The silica is broken into very fine dust (also known as Respirable Crystalline Silica or RCS) during many common tasks such as cutting, drilling and grinding. It is often called silica dust (see also Control of exposure to silica dust: A guide for employees).
- Non-silica dust – There are a number of construction products where silica is either not found or present in very low amounts. The most common ones include gypsum, cement, limestone, marble and dolomite. This dust is also mixed with silica dust when cutting things like bricks.
- Wood dust – Wood is widely used in construction and is found in two main forms; softwood and hardwood. Wood-based products are also commonly used including MDF and chipboard (see also Wood dust).