Dust is a common hazard found in the construction industry, especially around demolition or refurbishment work. Demolition involves all different types of materials that could create hazardous dust (airborne contaminants), so understanding the risk your workers are exposed to will help you to identify how best to manage the risks.
Hazardous dust can cause a number of health conditions, including skin and eye infections, silicosis, lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). The effects of dust inhalation are not always immediately obvious, particularly when breathing it in, and can cause life long health issues or death.
Health and exposure monitoring
Health monitoring is the monitoring of a worker to identify changes in their health status because of exposure to certain substances. It involves a doctor examining and monitoring the health of a worker to see if the exposure to hazardous substances at work is affecting their health.
You must ensure that health monitoring is carried out or supervised by an appropriate health monitoring doctor. If your workers have health monitoring regularly it is called a ‘health monitoring program’.
The health monitoring doctor will choose the best way to monitor your worker’s health and may use more than one way to monitor your worker’s health. They will look at:
- The regulatory requirements under the model WHS laws or state laws where different to WHS
- The type of substance / chemical involved
- The way your worker is exposed
- The level of exposure
- If the work environment includes control methods or equipment to reduce the exposure, and
- If it is possible to use a proactive way to monitor adverse health effects.
Controls to minimise the exposure to dust in the workplace could include:
- Detailed risk assessment
- Tool dust extraction systems
- Water suppression
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Making sure your workers have the right tools and information to complete the job safely includes training and understanding the risks involved, what to do if anything should go wrong, as well as the correct use, storage, and maintenance of PPE..
Controls to consider are:
- Limiting the number of people near the work
- Task rotation
- Substitution of materials where practicable
- Using sheeting or temporary screens to enclose the work to stop dust from escaping
Use of the HazardCo Demolition Safe Work Method template, available from the HazardCo HUB, will provide you with additional controls that may be suitable for your work.
Our team of health and safety experts are just a call away if you have any questions or would like to discuss further.