How to handle dust at work

Prolonged exposure to dust in the workplace can cause health problems for workers. Whilst the onus is on the employer to ensure that working conditions are kept safe in the course of their work, employees need to follow guidance by using protective equipment and clothing to help keep them healthy.

Amongst the most common conditions caused by excessive exposure to dust are all manner of respiratory ailments. Respiratory conditions can run between being a fairly minor annoyance to something far more sinister; in fact, in the case of the inhalation of asbestos, it can potentially be fatal.

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Exposure to dust

When working in areas prone to large quantities of dust, there are a number of ways that workers can be affected. Most likely is via inhalation, where large particles can end up trapped in the nose, throat or upper respiratory tract.

Smaller particles that can be inhaled into the lungs are known as respirable dusts. Any build-up of dust in the lungs can be incredibly harmful, causing damage to the lungs and potentially leading to breathing impairment. Damage may develop over time and symptoms may not appear until the condition is unable to be reversed.

Other ways that dust can affect workers is through eye contact, skin contact or ingestion. Let’s look at how exposure can be limited.

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Protection from dust

When working in a dusty area, such as installing ductwork parts from a supplier such as, there is an obligation on employers to provide protective clothing and equipment to keep their workers safe.

Preventative measures can include eliminating as much dust as possible from the environment by using wet cutting processes and ensuring that less toxic materials are used in industries such as the creation of ceramics pieces. When mixing materials, using a paste or emulsion rather than dry powders can help to reduce the dust emitted.

Exposure to dust includes the provision of protective clothing and masks for workers. Similarly, it is advised that dust-producing activities are carried out whilst limiting exposure to workers other than those who are absolutely vital to the procedure. Tasks that can be automated should be to keep the majority of the workforce safe.

Adequate ventilation should also be provided in areas to ensure that clean air is always available, while dust particles should be extracted as they are produced.