Dust? The Devil is in the Detail

up to 10 microns in size is normally invisible in standard light conditions and is so light that it can stay in the air for up to 8 hours. More to the point, it can be inhaled right into the lungs where the actual breathing process of taking oxygen from air and putting it into the bloodstream takes place. Clearly a very dangerous situation. Where Dust Comes From You don’t have to be a genius to work out where

most dust comes from on a building site. A lot of the basic construction processes of building, like cutting, drilling, demolition, and even sweeping are dust creators. There are three types of construction dust. The

most dangerous appears to be silica dust that comes from sandstone, concrete and mortar. These are also the materials that are hard to cut and usually produce a lot of dust when cut with our current standard methods like diamond discs. For example, sandstone contains between 70 to 90% silica, so is a particularly dangerous material to process. Wood and wood-related materials are also guilty of

producing dangerous dusts. Wood-based products like MDF also contain glues that add to their toxic effects and the processes of shaping, cutting and sanding them can also produce dust that is hard to extract. On the lower levels of the danger scale are materials like dolomite,

plasterboard or marble because they contain little or no silica. But this is still not an excuse to take no precautions when using these materials. What You Can Do to Keep You and Others Safe The construction industries seem to be gathered around the following three

control methods to impact on dust exposure – AVOID, PREVENT and MINIMIZE. The good thing about these points is that anyone can look at these and devise a strategy suitable for their level and type of work. So, let’s look at them. AVOIDING making silica dust can be as easy as buying the right size materials

from suppliers so that they don’t need to be cut on site. Factory cutting of sandstone flags is usually well controlled and safe, for example. The same is true of timbers and boards – if possible, the use of standard sizes is to be encouraged, not only as the green option, but as a lung-safe one as well. But there is a limited application to the AVOID

strategy, so the next step is to PREVENT. We are all familiar with dust suppression methods via vacuum collection, water damping and so on. Modern power tools are so much better at channelling and collecting dust away from the user and hopefully straight into an M class vacuum machine. And finally, the MINIMISE strategy has several

points to take note of. The most obvious is to use a correctly fitted and rated face mask for the workers involved. This protects the workers directly, but due note may need to be taken that others could be exposed to the dust created – the people walking past a construction site, for example. In this case, dust may need to be damped down by a very fine water mist spray, or the air may be filtered clean with a filter cube. The use of smaller tools may be needed to localise the dust and thus control it more easily in a more confined space. Most of the above can be done at any level – from a

domestic repointing job to a major construction site, and as long as the Health and Safety person is pro-active, dangers should be minimised. And Then There is the Kit And, of course there is the need to invest in the latest kit. That old wet-and-dry

vac that gets dragged along to every job (I hold my hand up here as guilty of this) is no longer enough to connect up to a power tool, or use to clean up at the end of the day. It will be more expensive to buy a powerful M class machine, but the great thing is there is a varied choice on the market – so retailers, it’s time to get the knowledge and information at your fingertips, because your customers need it.

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