Last reviewed 3 August 2022

We reported recently that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would be carrying out a health inspection initiative between 6 June and 1 July focusing on the respiratory risks to construction workers from exposure to dust (see HSE launches respiratory health site inspection initiative).

In this context, a leading firm supplying health and safety equipment, Arco, has issued guidance as part of its efforts to educate business leaders about the long-term dangers of construction dust.

There are 23 new cases of work-related respiratory diseases diagnosed every day and as active members of the Construction Dust Partnership (CDP), Arco is dedicated to reducing this figure by working to raise awareness about the issue.

Respiratory Manager at Arco Professional Safety Services, Kevin Williams, said: "Construction dust has been dubbed the 'silent killer' for a reason, as it's responsible for an alarming number of deaths every year. We have long campaigned to raise awareness of this issue, working with industry bodies and our partners."

Those who regularly work on building sites where there is excess dust created from activities such as wall chasing, stone cutting, demolition, drilling or sweeping, are more likely to be at risk from construction dust related respiratory illnesses, he pointed out.

However, contracting these illnesses is avoidable with effective preventive measures and the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE) or respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Controlling the Risks

In accordance with good occupational hygiene practice, risk assessors should, Arco advised, adopt the hierarchy of control to reduce the risk by:

  • eliminating the use of harmful substances and removing the hazard in its entirety

  • considering substitution, such as using a safer material

  • using engineering controls that work to isolate or reduce exposure of the substance, such as less powerful tools, introducing water or bringing in on-tool dust extraction

  • ensuring there are a set of administrative controls in place, such as the implementation of an effective respiratory management programme which includes correct RPE selection, face-fit testing, training, equipment inspections and maintenance, storage and record keeping. Then ensuring that employees are confident to use the control measures put in place and follow procedures and systems correctly

  • if these methods do not prevent or control the exposure, PPE in form of respiratory protective equipment will need to be issued and wearers will need to be face-fit tested.