Safety alert: HSE launches inspection crackdown on dust in construction and manufacturing

As part of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Work Right campaign, inspectors will be carrying out targeted inspections on the management of dust on construction sites.

Starting on Monday 15 May and lasting until 14 July, the inspections – part of a respiratory health intervention initiative – will specifically focus on dust control, checking employers and workers know the risks, plan their work, and are using the right controls.

Inspectors will be checking the control measures in place to protect workers from inhaling construction dusts including silica (Respirable Crystalline Silica/RCS) and wood dust.  They will also be looking at whether asbestos-containing materials have been identified and removed or managed where necessary to prevent or reduce exposure (check out our last safety alert for more information on this).

Workers are most at risk if they regularly carry out tasks like:

  • Using a cut-off saw on concrete products like kerbs, slabs, paving or roof tiles
  • Grinding concrete
  • Cutting and sanding wood products
  • Dry sweeping inside
  • Abrasive pressure blasting
  • Soft stripping/internal demolition work

The HSE will expect you to have identified dust within your risk assessments and implemented control measures to mitigate the hazard. These measures can be simple, such as:

  1. Work planning – Working in a different way, like limiting the amount you cut by purchasing pre-cut items rather than cutting on-site, or using non-powered equipment like block splitters.
  2. Stop the dust getting into the air – This can be achieved by on-tool extraction or wet-cutting methods.
  3. Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) – Make sure you’ve provided the correct RPE, and that it’s been fit tested. You’ll also need to show you’ve given your workers suitable instruction and training on the equipment.

Whatever you have in place, make sure that your controls are maintained and that you regularly supervise and monitor work to make sure that it is being conducted in line with your control measures.

Michael Thomas, HSE’s Chief Inspector of Construction, said of the campaign: “Our inspectors will visit a range of construction sites to check businesses are taking the necessary action to ensure their workers’ long-term respiratory health is being protected.

“Through  engaging with those on site, we can make sure they have considered the job from start to finish, have considered the risks at each stage, and are managing the risks with effective measures in line with the broad hierarchy of control options such as water suppression, extraction, and as a last resort, RPE.”

For more information on the HSE’s campaign, please click here. And please check out our resources in Atlas to make sure you’re working safely, including:

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