Dust Hazards in Construction

Research shows that dust exposure is a significant health hazard to people working in the construction industry. This article explains why dust exposure is dangerous and explores the various options available for reducing it.

Why is dust harmful to your health?

Dust particles may sometimes be too small to see, but fine enough to breathe in. Once inhaled, it can become imbedded deep in the lungs which can cause serious harm to health.

The damaging effects of dust can vary from skin irritation to lung cancer depending on the composition of the dust, and the type and degree of exposure.

Research shows that dust is a significant health hazard to people working in the construction industry as dust contains known carcinogens and silica. 

Samantha Wilding, B&CE’s health policy and public affairs lead, states, in The Construction Index editorialthat “81% of the 500,000 people who are exposed to silica dust at work, are employed in the construction industry.”

II’s estimated that in the USA, around 2.2 million workers are exposed, with 1.85 million of them in construction.


What is construction dust?

There are three main types of construction dust …all are harmful to health: 

  • Silica Dust – also known as respirable crystalline silica or RCS. Silica dust is generated when working on materials such as rocks, concrete, bricks, mortar and sandstone. Silica dust is too fine to see with the naked eye, but it can penetrate lungs deeply, damage lung tissue and which leads to fatal or debilitating respiratory diseases. 

  • Wood Dust – created when working on softwood, hardwood and wood-based products like MDF and plywood. Wood dust is a carcinogen which causes cancer as well as asthma. The HSA estimates that people working in the wood industry are 4x more likely to develop asthma than other UK workers. Hardwood dust and formaldehyde are proven cancer-causing agents, with hardwood dust causing a rare form of nose cancer.

  • Low Toxicity Dusts – created when working on materials containing very little or no silica. The most common include gypsum (e.g. in plasterboard), limestone, marble and dolomite.

Research carried out in both the UK and US showed that long term exposure to this type of dust can produce chronic lung conditions.

OSHA estimated that approximately 1.85 million workers are currently exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in construction workplaces. More than 500,000 of these workers are likely being exposed to silica levels greater than OSHA’s proposed permissible exposure limit.

What are the most common dust-related diseases?

The main dust-related diseases affecting construction workers are:

  • Lung Cancer
  • Silicosis
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Asthma

In a recent five-year period, China recorded more than 500,000 cases of silicosis with around 6,000 new cases and more than 24,000 deaths each year.


What preventative actions can be taken to prevent harmful dust at work?

Employers need to take active steps to prevent or adequately control construction dust risks. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) covers activities which may expose workers to construction dust. There are three key things employers are required to do: 
  • Assess (the risks) 
  • Control (the risks) 
  • Review (the controls).
Health and safety regulations insist that companies need to keep dust levels as low as possible to protect employees, customers, their family and friends from the detrimental health effects of dust. This also include unnecessary dust exposure and cross-contamination due to contaminated clothing worn during breaktime or outside the organisation.


How can JetBlack Safety Personnel Cleaning Booth help me control dust at work? 

JetBlack Safety Cleaning Booth has been specifically designed as a safer and effective alternative to compressed air systems to remove and capture harmful dust from workers PPE. Once extracted the dust can then be safely disposed of.  

How effective is JetBlack Safety Personnel Cleaning Booth at removing dust?

Studies have shown that personnel cleaning booths are 10x more effective at dust removal compared to hand vacuum or manual brushing of personnel protective equipment (PPE). 

How safe is a JetBlack Safety Personnel Cleaning Booth to use?

The booth has been designed with safety as a prime consideration. It uses high-volume low-pressure air to safely capture dust and debris as opposed to compressed air, which is highly dangerous and banned in the USA.  The JetBlack Safety range is OSHA compliant.

Which companies used the JetBlack Safety Booth?

Lafarge Cement, Tarmac, Hanson, Bosch & Siemens to name but a few.

How long does it take to use a JetBlack Safety Booth?

Within a 20-30 second time frame, workers can enter the cleaning booth and clean-down; reducing dust exposure and cross-contamination.


Where does JetBlack Safety Booth work best?

The booth has been designed by our engineering team who combines extensive knowledge and technical expertise in dust extraction, fans and air movement. JetBlack Safety Booth is the ideal solution for the construction industry as well quarrying, fibre moulding, wood and paper mills, textiles and many more.

For full details, please visit the Cleaning Booth product page.

Dust Hazards in Construction
Dust Hazards in Construction