Dust can have hazardous consequences to health and safety
A shockingly high number of people die each year of lung cancer because of over-exposure to respirable silica dust. Others suffer from dust-related diseases so badly that they can no longer work. So, dust can have severe consequences to your workforce if not tackled head-on. Several national and international organizations have realized the urgency of the issues and launched initiatives and campaigns to combat dust at the workplace (see info box at the bottom of the page).
As an employer, you are responsible for your workers’ health and safety on the construction site. It’s generally regulated by law but considering the consequences to individuals and their families it should be in your interest to protect your employees the best you can.
What are the consequences?
When the human body inhales dust, natural defense mechanisms kick in e.g. sneezing, coughing. But those human defense mechanisms are limited and for some kinds of dust ineffective. Special care must be taken when working with materials containing silica.
Silica is a natural material. About 27% of our earth crust is covered with it. It occurs in many materials common on constructions sites like sandstone, concrete, mortar, tile, brick and more.
When processing these materials, fine dust that contains respirable crystalline silica (RCS) occurs. Over-exposure to these RSC particles can be very dangerous because they reach deep into our lungs and settle in our lungs’ air sacks (alveoli). Over time scar tissue is produced and reduces the ability to breath-in oxygen. This incurable disease is called silicosis.