It is well known that those who work with certain types of materials and products in the workplace can be at risk of ill-health due to the dust particles they emit.
Here are 5 facts about dust, however, that you may not be aware of.
1. It’s Not Just Your Lungs That Are at Risk
Most people are aware that breathing dust can cause all sorts of health issues, such as asthma and lung cancer. But did you know that dust particles can also be swallowed and get into:
- the digestive tract where it can cause irritation,
- the blood stream where it can damage other organs and tissues,
In addition, dust particles can get:
- into the eyes where they can cause eye damage or irritation, and
- onto the skin where they can cause ulceration and irritations, which can lead to dermatitis.
2. The Risks Are Greater Than You Think
Some types of workplace dust are more harmful than others. Hazardous dusts which are common in some industries include:
- Asbestos – asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers each year (more than the number of people killed on the road)
- Flour – flour dust and enzymes containing additives such as amylase are the second most common cause of occupational asthma.
- Grain – grain dust (from barley, oats, wheat etc.) also contains contaminants, such as bacteria, fungal spores, insect debris and pesticide residue!
- Silica – silica dust is released when stone, bricks or concrete, are cut or broken. In June 2019, the Health & Safety Executive HSE announced it would increase its testing of dust levels at construction sites.
- Wood – carpenters and joiners are four times more likely to get asthma compared with other UK workers because of wood dust.
3. Not All Dusts Have a Workplace Exposure Limit
Some dusts have COSHH Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs). WELs provide a guide for employers for controlling exposure. So, for example, silica dust, which is particularly harmful to health, has a WEL of 0.1mg/m. Other dusts may not have a WEL but might still be hazardous. According to the HSE,
“A dust is considered to be a substance hazardous to health under COSHH if it is present at a concentration in air equal or greater than 10mg/m3 (for inhalable dust) or 4mg/m3 (for respirable dust) as a substance hazardous to health.”
At this concentration or below, it is widely believed that any exposure to dust is to be kept as low as possible.
4. Some Dusts are Combustible
Certain dusts are combustible under certain conditions, as highlighted by the HSE. Wood and flour dusts are both combustible, as well as the dust from powdered ingredients, such as sugar custard powder, instant coffee and dried milk. Read more about combustible dust here.
5. You Can Be Fined If You Fail to Have Your Dust Extraction System Tested
Most employers are aware that they need to have the correct control measures in place to protect their workers from the hazards of dust – and there are various measures to suit different working processes. But if you use dust extraction systems (LEV) and don’t get them tested as per the requirements of the law, then you could be fined.
The law states that you must maintain your local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system so that it continues to provide the necessary protection. A thorough examination and test should be conducted at least every 14 months. Furthermore, you must keep a record of the test for at least 5 years. Information should also always be displayed on the LEV system to verify that it provides adequate protection.
For more information about HVDS dust extraction solutions, click here. To enquire about a dust extraction survey for your facility, please click here. To enquire about a thorough examination and test of your LEV system, contact us here or call us on 01785 256976.