Dust can be produced in a number of ways, including when:
The amount of dust that a task produces will also increase when:
It is difficult to give a definitive answer for every situation. However, when working around dust, it is advised that:
While staying away from dust is important, HSE guidance suggests that controlling dust creation is a far more effective practice than attempting to avoid dusty areas of work.
Air purifiers do remove dust from air, but their effectiveness depends on the environment they are used in. For example, many models are designed for use at home and are not capable of purifying air that contains large amounts of dust.
Typically, air purifiers will collect large dust particles from the air using a type of mechanical filtration, such as a HEPA filter.
For workplaces that create large amounts of dust or need to control dust and emissions during construction and demolition, an industrial air purifier or LEV (local exhaust ventilation) system is more appropriate.
Hazardous substances covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations include:
Many people think that COSHH covers the control of asbestos, lead and radioactive agents, but these are actually covered by their own legislation. For more information on COSHH, consider taking our COSHH Awareness Training course.
The amount of dust that is safe to breathe in depends on the nature of the substance. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations set a limit on how much is safe for particularly dangerous dusts. This is called the workplace exposure limit (WEL).
A WEL is the legal maximum amount of a substance workers are allowed to be exposed to after control measures have been put in place.
These limits are often very low. For example, the amount of silica dust considered safe to breathe is compared to a one pence piece in the image below:
Hazardous substances can enter the body in a number of ways. There are four ways that dust tends to enter the body.
Controlling construction dust is not always easy. However, limiting the amount of dust created by changing how a task is done is a good start. Some examples of how to do so include:
Some work that creates a lot of dust is inevitable. In these situations, a suppression system or an extraction system should be used to stop or limit the amount of dust that gets into the air:
Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) is a dust extraction system used to reduce dust exposure in the workplace. As the name implies, an LEV system is installed at the source of the dust in order to remove it before it can cause harm.
LEV extraction combines two key systems: an air extraction system and air filtration system. It is usually installed where stationary tools, such as pedestal grinders, are in use.
The diagram below shows the key elements of an LEV system:
It is important that LEV systems are correctly installed, ideally by a trained professional, so that they can effectively act as a dust prevention measure. Further information on LEV installation and use can be found here.
Grinding concrete releases respirable crystalline silica (silica dust) into the air. Find out about the danger of silica dust here.
A dust suppression system that is commonly employed when working with concrete uses water to stop particles from becoming airborne. There are two types of this system: a water suppression bottle system and a mains water system.
The first uses a dust suppression water bottle and is more portable than the other which relies on a mains water supply.
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is the last line of defence against hazardous substances in the workplace. The importance of PPE in the workplace cannot be understated.
When other dust control measures do not reduce exposure to a satisfactory level, PPE and RPE (respiratory protective equipment) must be employed.
PPE may include disposable coveralls to protect personal clothing and skin, eye protection, or a full face dust mask to offer respiratory protection.
In short, PPE helps to prevent too much dust inhalation, skin contact and eye contact.
No, the harm that construction dust inhalation causes usually develops over a long period of time when a person is repeatedly and regularly exposed. That said, breathing in dust even for a short period of time is unpleasant, and can cause a reaction in people with asthma or other respiratory problems.
Adequate measures of dust control should always be taken and members of the public should be kept away from work that creates dust.
You can find further information and guidance on the dangers of dust and how to control dust in the workplace in our: