Construction Site Safety - Dust
Just about every construction site in the world will create dust in its operations. Unlike many other hazards, dust is harder to contain as it can easily get past site perimeter fences and affect the area beyond where activity is taking place. It has the potential to cause problems for both the public, and for the local environment.
For people and other living creatures, dust can cause respiratory problems, as well as causing irritation and possible damage to eyes if the dust particles are of a material which is abrasive to the eye. Particularly hazardous material such as silica dust can cause irreversible long-term lung damage.
In sufficient quantities dust can also damage the local environment. If a lot settles on plants and trees, it can block sunlight from getting to the leaves which will prevent photosynthesis. Whilst it is likely to blow off naturally in the wind, it may cause problems if there for a long period of time. If there is really a lot of it, it can bury and kill young/small trees, plants or grass. Hazardous dust can also enter nearby rivers and streams with the potential to mix with the water and cause damage to fish and other aquatic creatures.
Suitable precautions should be but in place in order to minimise or prevent the negative consequences associated with excessive dust. For those on site, personal protective equipment such as breathing apparatus and goggles can be used to prevent damage to health along with using equipment which captures the dust created by cutting or drilling. To prevent dust causing problems for the public and the environment, the area can be dampened down with water to prevent dust from escaping into the air and beyond the site boundaries. Areas should also be swept regularly to prevent the build up of large quantities of dust, although those doing the sweeping need to take precautions as this sweeping will whip up the dust and could be inhaled.
The risks and hazards from dust are covered in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations, apart from lead and asbestos dust which have their own specific regulations. Site workers would benefit greatly from health and safety training such as COSHH training in order to become more aware of the short-term and long-term dangers posed by dust, and how to work safely in dusty places of work.