Dust Extraction: The Risks of Dust and How to Prevent Them
Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) have commenced their ‘Dusk Kills’ campaign to educate workers on the control measures required to prevent exposure to dust. In addition to this, they’ll be conducting nationwide construction site inspections throughout May, June and July 2023. Starting on Monday, 15 May 2023, 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.
Over 12,000 workers die every year from work-related lung disease. Because of this, in recent years dust extraction and suppression have become important issues on site. Understanding the risks involved and how to avoid exposure to dangerous dust particles are crucial to keeping everyone safe.
What dust types are there?
There are three different types of dust you might encounter on a construction site.
- Silica dust – from working on materials like concrete, mortar and sandstone
- Wood dust – from working on softwood, hardwood and wood-based products like MDF and plywood
- Lower toxicity dusts – from working on materials like plasterboard, limestone, marble and dolomite
What are the different dust classes?
There are three different classes of dust. Each one requires a specific requirement to be safely removed from the workplace but, more importantly, from our lungs. These three classes are categorised as the following:
- Low Risk (L-Class)
This type of dust presents a moderate risk to any operator and is commonly associated with materials such as Corian and softwoods. The exposure limit for L-Class dust is >1mg/㎥ which requires a dust extractor that captures 99% of the dust with a grain size under two microns.
- Medium Risk (M-Class)
M Class is the minimal legal requirement, set by the HSE, and most sites will use this classification of dust extractors. Medium risk dust is associated with a wider range of materials including wood dust, dust from repair compounds, filler and clear coats, cement, concrete and tile cement dust. This type of dust presents a medium risk to any operator as the exposure limit for M-Class is > 0.1mg/㎥ and requires a dust extractor that catches 99.9% of the dust with a grain size under two microns.
- High Risk (H-Class)
H Class dust extractors include all the features you find with M Class units, but with greater suction and filtration figures. High risk dust includes any dust containing carcinogenic or pathogenic particles, as well as any mould spores, asbestos, mineral fibres, bitumen, and artificial mineral fibres such as glass wool. This type of dust presents a high risk to any operator as the exposure limit for H-Class dust is >0.1mg/㎥ and requires a dust extractor that catches 99.995% of the dust with a grain size under one micron.
What are the dangers of dust?
It’s important to understand the dangers of breathing in these dusts. Dust can do a lot of damage but the main dust-related diseases that tend to affect construction workers are:
- Lung cancer
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
One of the main things to be aware of is that it only takes a small amount of daily exposure to cause significant health risks. Many everyday, common construction tasks can create a lot of dust and the effects of inhaling it might not be apparent for some time.
How do I reduce dust on site?
The best way to reduce dust and the amount workers are exposed to are:
- Reduce or stop the dust – for example by making sure you’re using the right size of materials so to reduce the cutting required, or by using less powerful tools
- Control the dust – using wet cutters or tools with dust extraction or suppression functions
- Respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
It’s important to note that wearing RPE alone is usually not enough. You should try to reduce or control the dust as well as providing workers with adequate RPE.
Here at The Hireman many of our tools come with integrated dust reduction or removal features, while others can be hired with dust attachments. You can see which of our cutters and grinders have dust extraction options available right here. You can also flick through our catalogue where any tool with dust extraction features is highlighted with a dust icon.
To coincide with the Go Home Healthy campaign, we’re going to be going into more detail about some of our most popular tools with dust extraction features as well as the RPE we can provide, like masks and respirators. We’ll also look at how we’ve improved our own dust prevention practices. Look out for more in the weeks ahead!
Popular tools with dust extraction features
Air Cube Cleaner, H-Class, 1000 m3/h, 110V
Circulates air through a highly efficient multi-storage H-class filter system and separates dust down to 0.3 microns such as quartz dust found in concrete, brick, grout and mortar. Removing the hazardous airborne dust and particles that are harmful to our health.
Hilti VC 40M-X (16A), M-Class Dust Extraction Unit, 110V
Our M-Class Filtered extraction unit, with an automatic self-cleaning filter and a design suitable for attachment to a wide range of construction equipment.
Bridge/Slab Saw, 1000mm, 110V
Accurately cut large materials with our rail-tilting overhead bridge saw. With a Max cutting length of 1000mm and width of 110mm. Suitable for natural stone, concrete slabs, ceramic tiles and masonry block.