Control of Substances Hazardous to Health - COSHH Level 2 (VTQ)

47 videos, 1 hour and 58 minutes

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Different types of dust

Video 19 of 47
5 min 40 sec
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Dust can come in different forms and from different substances. It may be from cutting wood in a timber yard, concrete dust on a building site or flour dust in a bakery. Dust is not only a respiratory risk but also carried in the air, can contaminate work areas and products. It can also cause slip hazards on floors. One of the main industries where dust is a problem is construction. This is a general term used and may be found on any construction site. There are three main types of dust. Silica is a natural material present in a large amount of things like sand, sandstone and granite. It is also commonly found in many construction materials such as concrete and water. The silica is broken into very fine dust during many common tasks such as cutting, drilling and grinding. There are several construction products where silica is either not found or present in very low amounts. The most common ones include gypsum, cement, limestone, marble and dolomites. This dust is also mixed with silica dust when cutting things like bricks. And finally, wood. Wood is widely used in construction and it is found in two main forms: Softwood and hardwood. Wood-based products also commonly used include MDF and chip board.

Recent HSE research has estimated that silica may be responsible for over the 500 deaths a year in people who have worked in construction. The HSE estimates that around 4000 people die every year from COPD linked to work. Construction workers are one of the high-risk groups within this because of the dust they breathe. Many construction tasks create dust, high dust levels are caused by one of the following: Equipment, using high energy tools such as cut-off saws, grinders, wall chasers and grip blasters. These will produce a lot of dust in a very short time. Work method: Dry sweeping can make a lot of dust when compared to vacuuming or wet brushing. Work area: The more enclosed the space, the more the dust will build up. And lastly, time: The longer you work, the more dust there will be. Other ways dust can be created in any workplace are things like dry sweeping of floors or surfaces, transfer of powders from one container to another, unloading or loading of lorries and in food preparation. Anyone who breathes in this dust can do damage to the lungs and the airways. The main dust-related diseases affecting construction workers are lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or COPD and asthma.

While some lung diseases like advanced silicosis could come on quite quickly, most often happen over a long period of time. This is often over years. They happen because during this time, regularly breathing in even small amounts of dust adds up to damage to the lungs and airways. Unfortunately, by the time you notice the damage is often done, the more difficult it is to treat. To control dust, you need to look at ways of limiting the amount of dust produced rather than just supplying masks. You can reduce dust by using the right size of building materials, so less cutting or preparation is needed, by using less powerful tools or by using a different method of work all together, like using a nail gun to fasten cable trays instead of drilling holes first. Even if you can stop some of the dust in this way, you may need to do other work that could still produce high amounts of dust. In these cases, the most important thing is to stop the dust entering the air.

There are two main ways of doing this, which both give very good results. Water can be used to damp down dust clouds, however, it needs to be used correctly. This means enough water for the whole time that the work is being done. Just wetting an area of ground before cutting does not work. Care needs to be taken as a contaminated water could cause additional risk. Vacuum extraction uses specially designed tools that can be fitted with an industrial vacuum unit that sucks off the dust away as it's being created and stores it until emptied. This can be used in many industries from construction to food preparation. Sometimes people think that if there is dust, you simply wear a mask. Masks and respirators are effective but in high risk tasks, the amount of dust can be significant and the mask cannot control the amount of protection needed as the filter in the mask can quickly become clogged and stop working.

Also, a mask only protects the person wearing it, anyone else in the area will still be at risk from the dust if they do not wear a mask as well. There are many common mistakes that people make with masks, these include choosing the wrong type of mask, not being face fit-tested and not wearing them properly. As already mentioned, the main aim is to stop the dust getting into the air in the first place. If you do just wear on a mask for high risk tasks, you may be asked to justify why. Just because you work outside, you still need to reduce and protect against dust. While the wind will have an effect on the level of dust, many tasks involve the person working close to the part of the tool where the dust is being made. With very dusty tasks, this means that you can still breathe in a lot of harmful dust.