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It is more important than ever for construction to share knowledge, best practice, technology and product innovations to support healthier and safer working environments, says Matias Jarnefelt.
Along with Covid-19 working
restrictions, dust exposure is one of the biggest health and safety concerns
the construction industry is facing.
There are multiple touch points in the construction
process that generate dust and it is found on almost all jobsites. Very fine
dust (also known as Respirable Crystalline Silica dust), poses a great risk for
workers and the surrounding environment. Regular inhalation of dust particles
causes an accumulation in the lungs, often leading to serious, long term health
problems like asthma, lung cancer, COPD and silicosis.
Because of the routine
interaction with applications that produce dust, construction workers have a
higher risk of developing these diseases. According to statistics from
the Health & Safety
Executive (HSE) for Great Britain, occupational lung diseases account for
around 12,000 deaths estimated to be linked to past exposures at work, and further
estimates point to dust being
the cause of death for over 500 construction workers.
With the reclassification of RCS as a carcinogen by the HSE, and a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group “Silica – The Next Asbestos” calling on the Government to take further legislative action on dust, we can see that the conversation around construction dust is gaining momentum. The growing evidence and research into the effects of dust show it’s time for construction businesses to act now.
Tackling dust at the source by using
innovative tool technologies and dust suppression is crucial for businesses in
the construction industry. When it comes to dust and Covid-19 working
regulations, there is a lot to think about. On top of controlling dust,
contractors need to consider physical distancing, tool maintenance and hygiene, while accounting for
PPE availability, and the added focus on the detrimental effects of respiratory
illness. However, there are solutions available that can help reduce dust
exposure and assist with workplace management and productivity with the
On-tool extraction and dust removal systems (DRS)
maximise the amount of dust removed at source, so less time is needed to set up
and clean down working areas before and after carrying out a job. Using DRS
also support Covid-19 working restrictions, eliminating the numbers of people
needed to carry out tasks with single-person operation solutions.
An HSE report, ‘Assessment of
dust extraction system solutions on hand-held electric diamond cutters to BS EN
50632’ examines the effectiveness of tool manufacturers’ dust extraction
systems, highlighting a clear distinction between the tools and that not all
dust extraction systems are created equal. Out of the three tools tested, the mean
respirable dust concentrations for system one (Hilti) measured 0.85 mg.m-3,
followed by system two at 7.65 mg.m-3 and system three at 16.55 mg.m-3.
Since the 1990s, Hilti is proud to
have been developing a rich competence in virtually dust-free working. The Hilti Dust Research Centre in Germany plays a central
role in ensuring that Hilti power tools are optimised to control dust, and we now have
the technology to remove 99.8% of the dust at source, as
the cut is being made.
the industry, it is more important than ever for companies to collaborate and
share our knowledge, best practice, technology and product innovations, working
together to support healthier and safer working environments for construction
Matias Jarnefelt is managing director for Hilti Northern Europe and Great Britain.
Register for our webinar: ‘Clearing the air: how dust exposure is impacting health, safety and productivity’.