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Thanks to new technology on the market, employers have no excuse when it comes to protecting workers from harmful vapours, dust and noise. Neal Hill, Product Line Manager at Casella tells us why.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) estimates that diseases caused through occupational exposure kill six times more employees than work- related accidents. However, the HSE’s Chief Inspector of Construction has said that the industry has ‘lost its way’ in compliance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH) Regulations.

As such, the HSE will be taking stronger action to ensure that employers do more to safeguard workers against occupational exposure, particularly to asbestos, dust and excessive noise. Of increasing concern are the less visible dangers - such as the effect of fine, respirable dust produced by many construction and demolition processes - and the literally unseen risks they pose to human health.

The urge to improve safety is timely considering the recent report from the Construction Skills Network (CSN), part of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), which makes for positive reading on the prospects of the UK construction industry. According to the “Blueprint for Construction” report, the UK can expect to see 182,000 construction jobs created, fuelled by demand for 245,000 new homes over the next five years.

Aside from the need to increase recruitment efforts, there will need to be a concerted effort to prevent illnesses because more workers on construction sites means more workers potentially being exposed to dust and other airborne contaminants. As such, improving regulation and enforcement of occupational health provisions needs to be a higher priority.

When it comes to addressing potential dangers, the problem is often one of perception. Deadly gases such as hydrogen sulphide (H2S) that pose an immediate threat to life naturally attract the most attention. However, the effects of exposure to potentially


toxic dusts can be extremely harmful, despite the long latency period of any developing condition. It may take many years before symptoms, such as cancers of the lungs, throat and nose, as well as other respiratory conditions, including emphysema and asthma, present themselves.

Both employee health and business profitability can suffer from, at one end of the scale, lost working hours, and at the opposite end of the scale, claims for compensation. However, construction companies can take advantage of modern instrumentation

to monitor conditions and protect the workforce and the business from the negative effects of exposure.

Today, both hand-held and wearable data logging instruments can be used in real-time to detect harmful contaminants such as airborne dusts, fumes and aerosols. The Casella Microdust Pro, for example, offers the reliability that is essential in health and safety equipment; the rugged data logging device may be used for spot checks and walk-through surveys that instantly provide data where excessive dust levels are occurring. Meanwhile, solutions worn on the body, like the iconic dBadge noise dosimeter and TUFF personal sampling pump, are more suited to individual measurements where tasks vary throughout the day and cumulative exposure cannot easily be estimated.

Health and safety practices are sometimes based on an oversimplified assessment of risk to comply with the most basic demands of legislation. However, more enlightened construction companies are following proactive risk reduction strategies that go much further. To enable this improvement, technological advances have not only delivered enhanced processes but also improvements in safety tools and techniques to protect from these conditions.

There may be work to do in understanding, evaluating and appreciating the risks that workers face in order to establish the most cost-effective and efficient safety practices, but it is a worthwhile task from all perspectives. While personnel safety is undoubtedly the most important factor, the prevention of accidents and ill health also improves productivity and profitability - and that benefits everyone in the business.

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