Dangerous Dust on the Jobsite and What You Can do About It

Jobsite Dust

No matter how tidy you strive to be, dust is a part of life. Moreover, for some people, it is also a part of their job description. Many industries perform functions that kick up clouds of dust, and while workers eventually adjust to working in a haze, the fine particles can still have adverse effects on their health — sometimes even years down the road.

Chances are, if your job creates significant amounts of dust, you already know about the extensive safety measures you are required to take to protect your employees. However, if you are working on a temporary dust-generating project, or if you would like some information to present to employees working in dusty digs, here’s a rundown of the dangers of dust, and how to avoid them.

Dusty Jobs

But first, let’s review some of the jobs that produce the most dust. They often require dust management strategies to protect the facility and its employees from any negative effects. Construction, whether it is your sole business or a temporary project, generates much dust from wood, tile, and cement cutting or pouring. Mining, transporting, and even farming can all generate and expose workers to dust that could pose a serious risk to their health and wellbeing.

The key is determining what particles make up the dust that’s being inhaled. Dust falls into two main categories — organic and inorganic –, but the components of any dust cloud can vary widely. Some dust, such as asbestos and silica, are known to be dangerous and require some safety precautions to handle. However, dust that comes from seemingly harmless items — tile, wood, hay or even animal dander — can still have serious health repercussions, which brings us to dusty diseases.

Dusty Diseases

Dust inhalation can lead to some health problems, both short-term and long-term, on a spectrum that ranges from mild discomfort to potentially fatal. Here, we have outlined some of the most common threats dust exposure causes.

Irritation

Any exposure to dust can cause immediate, uncomfortable irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, lungs and skin. Eyes may water, itch or burn, and you may find yourself coughing or sneezing. Symptoms are usually similar to hay fever or seasonal allergies, but can worsen over time.

Allergies and Asthma

Both short-term and prolonged exposure to certain types of dust can result in the development of allergies, even in workers who have not previously had them. It can also cause or exacerbate asthma, which, while it can be controlled, has the potential to cause great physical harm.

Lung Disease

Most seriously, long-term exposure to dust can negatively impact the respiratory system. While your nose and lungs offer quite a bit of natural filtering, dust can still pass through and settle in the deepest part of your lungs. When this dust remains, it causes damage to the surrounding tissue, leading to a buildup of scar tissue, and consequently, difficulties breathing. Individuals may develop COPD or even lung cancer. This is why it is vitally necessary to know what makes up the dust you are exposed to, and how to take the right precautions.

Dust Busters

Fortunately, it is easier now than ever before to protect workers and prevent dust-related disease and illness.

Wear the Proper Gear

Proper gear is a necessity in keeping employees safe. Respirators, like this one, create a barrier between the dust and your workers, filtering out harmful contaminants. OSHA requires that employers “fit test” workers who wear respirators on the job to ensure a tight fit. If the fit isn’t right, the respirator can’t do its job to protect the wearer.

Contact HP Products for help with a qualitative respirator fit test.

Ventilate Your Workspace

If your work generates much dust on a regular or prolonged basis, consider installing a ventilation system or finding specially designed equipment that reduces the amount of dust released into the air.

Keep a Clean Area

Make an effort to keep a clean workplace. If possible, use a vacuum to suck dust up and away, rather than using a broom, which sends potentially dangerous particles airborne. If you must use a broom, wet-sweep if you can, by spraying water on the floor and containing the dust particles. Use water whenever possible in any dust-generating task, like cutting tile or pouring dry concrete. Also, ensure that your employees have plenty of opportunities to clean up and take breaks — washing their hands, rinsing their eyes and face, and breathing in some fresh air.

Don’t Get Left in the Dust

Dust may seem like more of a nuisance than a danger, but it can have a lasting negative impact on your workers, and can reduce productivity and efficiency on the worksite. For a handy guide to dust hazards and illness prevention, check out our info-guide here. Also, as always, feel free to contact us with any questions.

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