Occupational dust hazards have been causing havoc on the health and wellbeing of workers for years. Dust in any capacity may contain an array of microscopic substances, including dirt, pollen, minerals, wood, sand, micro-organisms, and vehicle and industrial exhausts.
The dangers of dust are well documented, but there are still many procedures not being correctly adhered to that are causing damage to the lungs of countless workers. This guide will run over some of the crucial dust hazards and control measures individuals and organisations can take to mitigate the effects of dust in the workplace and beyond.
Understanding The Risk Of Dust
In many industrial occupations, dust is unavoidable. It progresses from an irritant to a severe health threat when inhaled in high concentrations. Dust can come in many forms, from mineral dust like silica, mineral fibres like asbestos and organic dust like wood and flour are common occurrences in sites, workshops, and workplaces across Australia. When inhaled in high concentrations, dust presents a real safety hazard. It is essential to recognise that in some instances, different forms of the same material can present additional risks. For example, a large block of concrete may present an insignificant hazard to your lungs, but when cutting to resize, the dust created becomes hazardous.
Problems Caused By Dust
The many dangers of dust include the myriad of health problems that stem from prolonged exposure and inhalation of dust. It is a common misconception that the larger dust particles are responsible for the more severe health issues, when in fact, it is the smaller, almost atomised particles that slip through our body’s natural defences and wreak havoc on the body’s respiratory system.
It is estimated that 10% of the world’s population is allergic to dust mites. Dust allergies can cause wheezing, asthma attacks, severe bronchial infections, and dermatitis. In some workspaces, the dust produced by machinery or other means also contains chemical particles which cause long-term health problems. These long-term health problems include Pneumoconiosis, which is the name of a collection of restrictive lung-related diseases that include silicosis, talcosis, and asbestosis, where dust exposure causes debilitating lung scarring that is permanent and irreversible.
Some dust, when inhaled, can become stuck in the mucus that lines the respiratory tract. This mucus is either spat out or swallowed. When swallowed, this dust-imbued mucus can make its way into your digestive system and can cause localised issues like irritation. Or it can affect other organs more seriously via the bloodstream, like lead inhalation.
Dust particles may also enter the digestive tract by eating, drinking, or smoking with contaminated hands. Workers must maintain good hygiene in the workplace and ensure workers wash their hands regularly.
The importance of mitigating dust hazards early lies in its long-term role in affecting the body. Whether hazardous or nuisance, no type of dust will kill you instantly. However, continual exposure is one of the dangers of dust that will kill you long term.
How To Reduce The Dangers Of Dust
Australia has many laws and regulations that stipulate safe conditions for operating in a dust prone environment. Companies that oversee operations that produce dust are required to ensure their workers are adequately protected from any risk of dust problems. Here are a few control measures for lowering the risk of dust harm.
When considering any type of Hazard Prevention and Control in the Work Environment, Airborne Dust is perhaps the most significant factor contributing to unseen workplace risk.
Use Of A Dust Extractor Or Collector
Many companies around Australia use an effective dust extraction system or vacuum to clean their workspaces of dust. Dust extraction units are incredibly beneficial in cleaning workspaces for accumulated dust around a machine and improving the air quality.
Dust extracting units also increase the operational functionality of machines. Excess dust can make its way into hard-to-reach equipment areas and impair the mechanics. A proper dust extraction system dramatically reduces the possibility of damage to a machine and the need for constant maintenance, improving the quality of products produced.
Exhaust ventilation and diffusion ventilation can be used in many workplaces to ensure clean air is circulated and dust-ridden air is filtered out. The difference between the two systems is that the exhaust ventilation removes more localised dust particles in a chamber. In contrast, the diffusion system ensures a balanced dispersion of dust particles within a workspace where it is impossible for dust to be totally eliminated.
PPE and RPE
Along with respiratory protection equipment (RPE), suitable personal protection equipment (PPE) must be worn in workplaces where dust is a hazard. A proper respirator will protect against airborne dust; there are different respirators that also protect against other types of contaminants.
Overalls, gloves, boots should be worn to avoid any harmful skin irritants within the dust. It is equally as important that at the end of the period when exposed to dust, great care is taken when removing this PPE as the risk of dust clouds generating is significant from equipment being removed hastily.
Using Tools with Dust-Collecting Attachments
Dust extraction systems such as high-powered localised vacuums are attached to aid in extracting dust from the point of sawing, cutting, or drilling. It is paramount that the correct fitting is in place for the tool you are using, and the bags or filters used in the machine are cleaned and changed regularly to avoid overfilling or jamming.
Wetting Tools Down
When cutting concrete, sandstone, or mortar on a construction site, crystalline silica is released into the atmosphere. This can cause irreparable damage to the inhaler’s lungs, often years after the first exposure. As the name suggests, wet cutting is adding water over the material being cut to reduce the generation of dust. When done effectively, up to 85% of dust generation can be reduced.
Choose Searose to Reduce the Dangers of Dust in Your Workplace
Maintaining a reliable dust extraction system, collection and filtering are fundamental when providing a safe workspace for your employees. Dust hazards and control measures to curb them are very prevalent, so there is no reason you can’t correctly equip your workplace with a Searose Environmental dust extraction and collection system.
Searose Environmental is the leading supplier of industrial dust extraction, control systems and products throughout Sydney and Brisbane; we provide bespoke ventilation solutions and informed recommendations for workshops and workplaces to meet the demands of your business. If you are worried about the risk of dust to your employees, turn to the dust extractor servicing and dust control experts you can rely on. With over 40 years of experience, the Searose Environmental team are the industry experts in dust control services, providing expert design, manufacture, installation, and repair services to ensure you reap the rewards of a productive and safe workplace.
Contact the Searose Environmental team today for a free no-obligation quote. Give us a call on 1300 484 849 or enquire online, and we’ll provide you with a price estimation for your new dust extraction system.