What Are The Government Standards on Dust Regulation?

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It’s estimated that there are an estimated 12,000 lung disease deaths each year in the UK linked to past exposures to dust at work.

With stringent government standards on dust regulation, it is essential that employers adhere to legislation in order to keep employees safe from dust.

We’ve taken a look at the several different types of workplace dust, and what you as an employer must do to comply with stringent government standards on dust regulation.

What Are The Different Types of Workplace Dust?

Workplace dust can be categorised into two main types:

Inhalable Dust

Inhalable dust is the larger of the two types of dust. Most inhalable dust is filtered out naturally in your nose and throat.

Respirable Dust

Respirable dust is the more dangerous of the two. These dust particles cannot be filtered out by your nose or throat due to their small size. Therefore, they can cause you serious health problems with prolonged exposure by penetrating the pulmonary alveolar region of the lungs.

Depending on your workplace, you may be exposed to different forms of dust. How you categorise these different forms, such as metallic or chemical dust, is therefore dependent on the size of the dust particles and how dangerous they are.

Why Do Employers Need to Focus on Dust Suppression?

Dust exposure in the workplace can exacerbate and cause a range of conditions, and for this reason both employers and employees need to be aware of the dangers it can pose, before it leads to serious health issues.

Ranging from mildly serious to life-threatening, these are some of the conditions that can be worsened by breathing in dust:

Silicosis - Silica dust has carcinogenic effects, and Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) causes the irreversible effects of inflammation and fibrosis of the lung tissue, if exposed to respirable dust over a prolonged period. Symptoms include a persistent cough and shortness of breath and can often become worse years after the initial exposure. An estimated 500 construction workers die each year from silicosis.

Asthma – Respirable dust particles are able to make their way into your lungs, which can cause inflammation and the swelling of your airways. This can worsen the symptoms of asthma, and exposure to dust radically affects how this common and long-term chronic disease is managed.

Lung cancer – Asbestos and non-asbestos related lung cancers are responsible for an estimated 43% of annual deaths from lung disease at work. Exposure to dust remains a serious health hazard.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - 33% of current annual deaths from occupational lung disease is from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Your Responsibilities as an Employer

Several pieces of legislation state that as an employer, it is your responsibility to make the workplace a safe and suitable environment for employees. If you fail to do so, you are legally and morally liable.

There are several pieces of legislation relevant to minimising workplace dust, the most significant of which being:

  • The Factories Act of 1961
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • The 1988 Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
  • The Coal Mines (Respirable Dust) Regulations of 1975.

In a survey of UK construction professionals in 2012:

  • Only 16% believed that their workers were aware of the dangers of breathing construction dust.
  • Only 12% felt the sector treated dust risks as a priority health issue.
  • Of those working in the industry, 45% gave dust risks little to no priority.

These statistics outline how dangerously overlooked by all parties the impact that exposure to dust in the workplace can be.

In our next blog, we discuss several ways you can control workplace dust, but if you have questions about controlling dust in the workplace, contact us today to see how we can help you.