The title of this article would make you think that DUST is a new thing and that the effects dust has within our body is also new. Dust has been around for a very long time, however those of us who work in industries where we break, cut, crush and generally move any form of stone, see dust movement every day, what we do not tent to see is the effects this dust has to our health until many years later.
Those who work within the construction industry have an extremely high risk of developing the diseases which are caused by dusts. The main cause of this is the tasks which are undertaken during the construction process and the high levels of dust they create. Reparable crystalline silica particles are produced during many work tasks, including sandblasting, mining, rock drilling, quarrying, brick and block cutting, glass manufacturing, tunnelling, foundry work, stone working, ceramic manufacturing and cutting, most of these elements of work are construction activities. Silica causes the silicosis, which can cause diseases to the lungs, heart, liver and kidneys in its solid or liquid form, let’s not forget silicon mastic. What other products are in use today and contain silica within them which we are not aware of??? This is a question for others to answer.
Unfortunately, when we are young we believe nothing can harm us, that we are invincible and what we do today will not affect us in the future, it is not until later in life these things become a problem. What is it we need to do today to prevent another killer disease in the future.
Education, how we educate, who are we educating and how do our educators approach the students, who in many cases are adults. The who, is not just be the operatives on site, it must also include the site management teams, their employers, the instructors who will undertake the teaching to create a greater awareness and understanding by all of those involved. In the construction industry we tell our operatives what they can and can’t do, in many instances what we don’t do is give them all the information and a greater understanding as to why they must undertake various steps before completing any task.
We are all aware of the dangers of Asbestos, what many are not really aware of is that dust in the construction industry will become the next Asbestos (Asbestosis, Silicosis), and that general dust on construction sites will in the future cause the deaths of many operatives off site due to industrial health (occupational health) issues. The Health and Safety Executive has been instrumental in the reduction of work based injuries and fatalities, however, YOUR future work related health issues need to be prevented by everyone. Silica has many more ways of causing death to an individual than asbestos.
This is known by many as occupational health diseases, unfortunately these types of illnesses and deaths are not often considered by the industry as being significant enough to become part of the percentages that may influence a client as to whether they use a particular contractor or not, incident, accidents and fatalities percentages, however, are very much a percentage that can affect the profitability of a contractor.
Incidents, near misses, injuries and fatalities are all phrases we understand and over the years many have spent a great deal of time and energy to their prevention. Occupational health is something on a poster in the office or canteen which no one really pays attention to, why, because it does not happen on site. This needs to change a greater emphasise needs to take place showing the operatives what occupational health/occupational disease really means to them and how it will affect them in the future.
The main topic here has been dust and the materials that are used in the construction industry which cause dust with silica content, there are lots of differing dust created during the construction process, so what can we do, as mentioned at the beginning education and awareness for all.
We cannot totally ignore enforcement, there will still be those who feel that the rules do not apply to them, in this situation the only way is removal from the work place, it is a serious step to take, but it would be the ultimate deterrent.
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Author; Michael Hempsey, 20th August 2019