Last month, we updated on the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) ‘Construction Health Inspection Initiative’ throughout October. As well as checking for compliance with COVID-19 safety rules, the HSE is focussed on identifying the risks posed and the safety measures in place to control dust inhalation in the construction sector.
The HSE has reported it is carrying out unannounced inspections of construction firms during October 2020 to ensure businesses have safeguards in place to protect workers’ lungs from health-damaging materials such as asbestos, silica and wood dust.
The HSE has confirmed that despite the obvious current focus on coronavirus, it is still important to look at other health risks during an inspection. Lung damage caused by inhaling workplace dust particles is associated with an increase in work-related deaths in the construction industry.
Why is dust dangerous?
Asbestos, for example, kills around 5,000 workers per year. It is not just a problem of the past as asbestos can be present today in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000. When a material that contains asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. Inhaling these fibres can cause serious and potentially fatal diseases (such as mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and/or pleural thickening). Once inhaled the fibres become embedded deep within the lung. Unfortunately, it is too late to do anything.
What safety steps can you take?
It is better to take a proactive approach as opposed to sweeping the issue (in this case dust) under the carpet. HSE inspectors will be looking for evidence of businesses and workers knowing the risks, planning their work and using the correct controls including PPE, such as dust masks or respiratory equipment depending on the product and risk. We can help advise you on the relevant laws, risk assessments and training. We have also provided specialist advice in respect of claims relating to dust-related illnesses. If you need our help, please do get in touch.