Dust! It’s everywhere!

Posted on 1st May, 2015 | By Lorretta Tatham

Dust can appear from anywhere – whether from cleaners, manufacturing and work materials, or paints and varnishes being used, it’s a real health and safety issue for employees.

The dangers of dust

Exposure to dust – at home or at work – can cause, or exacerbate, respiratory issues as well as autoimmune problems, asthma and more short-term issues such as skin rashes and other allergy symptoms.

At its worst, dust can also lead to cancer if it constrains heavy metals, chemicals or moulds.

In fact, dust-related illnesses have been found to be one of the major killers in the UK when it comes to occupational health.

There are hundreds of thousands of people alive in the UK with medically-confirmed work-related lung diseases, while workplace dust results in a few thousand deaths each year.

One thing that makes the issue of exposure to dust even more worrying is that it can take several decades for a person to develop symptoms of the more serious illnesses.

For example, pneumoconiosis – a condition that affects the lungs causing inflammation or scarring of the lung tissue – may develop over years with little to no symptoms.

Transforming from a cough to breathing difficulties and even weight loss over time.

Limiting exposure to dust is therefore key to prevent health, safety and wellbeing issues from occurring.

The top four dust-ridden industries

While most environments, if regularly cleaned and maintained, are safe, there are a number of industries that one should be extra cautious in:

Mines and quarries. The problem of dust in these environments comes from coal, flint and silica.

Construction sites. Cement and asbestos dust carry real risks.

Farming and agriculture. Exposure to dust from grains can result in both long and short-term health issues.

Carpentry and joinery. Dust from wood carries risks to one’s health and wellbeing.

Protecting yourself in the workplace

While dusty environments are sometimes unavoidable there are simple measures you can take to protect yourself at work and minimise your exposure to harmful particles.

Ensure your workplace is well ventilated.

Even if it is, always wear a respirator when you’re likely to be in an environment with dust.

Get some fresh air and make sure you break regularly from the potentially harmful environment.

Wear the appropriate PPE – dust filtration mask and goggles for your eyes.

If the particles contain harmful metals or chemicals wear gloves and a full protective suit to prevent skin absorption.

Clean up dust when you can by using a vacuum, push broom, wet or dry duster or spray hose.

This should prevent the accumulation of dust.

If you believe you have suffered illness as a result of dust in the workplace you may want to seek legal help for compensation. If you’re considering claiming, it’s worth remembering that you need to file your claim within three years of diagnosis.

Have you suffered any illness as a result of workplace dust? If so, tell us your story in the comments below or tweet us @BrownsLadders

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