Health Problems Caused by Dust in the Workplace
Too much dust in the workplace can be highly dangerous on a number of levels. In particular, a high concentration of dust can be combustible and cause explosions. For this reason and the prevention of dust-related illnesses, companies must ensure they curb the dust levels in a workplace in order to keep workers safe.
In terms of occupational health, dust is one of the biggest hazards for workers and as such understanding this and actively working to remove it is vital.
There are some workplaces which are more prone to dust problems than others. For the most part, offices should not have a problem as the dust levels should never get that high. At risk areas, in particular, include:
- Mines & Quarries – coal and flint dust
- Construction – cement dust and asbestos
- Agriculture – grain dust
- Carpentry – wood dust and chippings
- Bakeries & Food Factories – flour dust
- Textiles – material dust
Dust Related Illness
Those suffering from dust related illnesses can exhibit a number of signs, particularly in terms of breathing lung problems. Depending on the workplace, the condition can be more serious than you might expect. Eye and nose damage, rashes and dry skin, asthma, lung cancer from asbestos, and asbestosis can all occur as a result of too much dust in a workplace.
Pneumoconiosis is a broad term which describes any conditions that have caused damage or inflammation to the lungs. Several decades may pass before a person realises that these issues have caused them harm, however, which is one of the major worries for employees and employers alike. That is why early signs such as excess coughing, breathing difficulties and sometimes weight loss.
Government provisions to reduce the risk of dust in the workplace include the Factories Act 1961, Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1988. These help to guide an employer to create as safe a working environment as possible.
Provisions include doing all that you can to eliminate or disperse the dust effectively – including, a proper dust extraction system. Where dust is a fundamental presence in the day to day working lives in an environment, the correct safety clothing needs to be provided to keep workers as safe as possible. This includes protective clothing and breathing respirators if required.
Regular health checks should also be encouraged by employers to ensure that workers are aware and keeping on top of any potential health risks.
Ultimately, avoiding the risk of dust in the workplace altogether is the preferred option. Removing it at every stage of production, having the right safety equipment and simply educating your employees should be the least that you do in order to protect their long-term health.