Legal update: HSE announces crackdown on construction dust

Please Note: All information correct at time of writing on 5 October 2020. We do our very best to make sure our information is as up to date as possible, but we’d encourage you to check out our latest articles and to check the government website for updates as they happen.

HSE announces crackdown in construction dust

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have stepped up their enforcement to target construction industries on dust, relating directly to the respiratory risks and occupational lung diseases. HSE want to focus on the control measures businesses have in place to manage the risks of harmful substances such as asbestos, silica and wood dust etc.

This is part of their overall strategy in supporting workplaces to improve the overall management and control of exposure to harmful dusts in construction settings.

Ramping up inspection activity

While the primary focus will be on health during this programme of inspections, if a HSE inspector identifies any other areas of concern, they will take necessary action to deal with them. This includes making sure that businesses are doing all they can to protect their workers from the risk of coronavirus and making workplaces COVID-secure.

Aside from undertaking their powers as inspectors, they aim to educate and support construction industries to support those businesses where these risks will be prevalent.

More than 3,500 builders die each year from cancers related to their work, with thousands of more cases of ill-health and working days lost.

Where will inspections take place?

Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, inspectors will conduct their assessment on your premises with other authority measures to enforce and inspect your site to ensure no stone is left unturned.

When will inspections take place?

From Monday 5 October 2020, it will be a month-long initiative by the HSE across Great Britain. This may extent where the HSE announce further updates.

They will be actively aiming to influence employer behaviour by encouraging builders to download free guidance and advice to increase knowledge and capability to protect workers’ health.

When the HSE are on your site, expect them to be speaking with your employees and contractors to understand their knowledge of the risks involved when it comes to dust. They will also be looking at you, the employer, to see where you are fulfilling your obligations to provide a safe workplace for your people and those who fall under your duty of care.

What are my legal duties as an employer?

Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, you must ensure that roles and activities fulfilled by your employees and people under your duty of care do not expose them to any health and safety risks.

More specifically, duties relating to the protection of employees from the exposure to hazardous materials are outlined in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH) Regulations.

These regulations are absolute in their requirements and state the necessity for employers to implement suitable and sufficient risk assessments to prevent the risk of exposure.

What do I need to consider?

As an employer, you will need to implement considerations and risk assessments across your workplace to eliminate, reduce, control, and protect people from the risk imposed by construction dust. Here are some examples:

  • COSHH Assessment – most dusts will be subject to the regulations as hazardous substances. Your COSHH assessment will provide you with a better understanding of the level of exposure they bring. The regulations require that employees should not carry out work that is liable to expose employees to hazardous substances which may affect their health until all the risks have been evaluated and minimised as set down in the regulations.
  • Health Surveillance – where there is an identified health risk, it is a legal requirement to provide health surveillance. This allows for early detention if ill-health so corrective actions can be put into place. A part of the scope of health surveillance is lung function testing and questionnaires, in which backs up with medical advice to show how an individual has been affected and where actions need to be implemented to enhance control measures.
  • Ventilation (LEV) – aside from the workplace regulations for providing adequate ventilation, LEV is controlled under the COSHH regulations and must be tested by a competent individual every 14 months. LEV provides extraction of dust at the source.
  • Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) – protective equipment needs to be issued for the individual to protect them from the harmful substance. This needs to consider the suitability of the RPE based on the task, environment, and individual. Other considerations include face-fit testing and the British (BS) and European (EN) Standard of Conformity.

Citation can help at every step of the way

Our Health & Safety experts are at hand with our 24/7 advice line. If you want their help, guidance and support in controlling dust on your site, you can call them on 0345 844 4848.

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