Do you know the risks of dust?

Construction dust can vary from wood and silica to fumes and vapours affecting site personnel and even the general public on sites in built up areas. It is vitally important that personnel are aware of dust risks and carry out the necessary best practice environmental management procedures to ensure people are safe.

What are construction dust risks?

Two of the top ten Health & Safety Risks on construction sites are:

  • Asbestos and
  • Airborne fibres and materials leading to respiratory diseases.1

Construction Dust Dangers

We’ve known about asbestos poisoning since the 1960s, but increasingly we’ve seen reports about other construction dust related diseases.

Both dusk risks listed above are very closely linked and the actual dangers of both are caused by the movement of hazardous particles moving through the air and being breathed in by people nearby. These people are most likely to be those on site working with the materials, but they just as easily could be members of the public in the near vicinity of the site, especially in a busy, built-up, tight area and if site dust gets out of control on site.

The fine, toxic fibres that cause these dangers are often invisible and caught up with the rest of the particles and dust that gets created by general activity and movements around site. Asbestos and other materials such as silica and wood dust, as well as fumes and vapours, are the cause of respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, lung and nasal cancers, pneumonia, silicosis, asbestosis, and many other minor symptoms or chronic, fatal conditions.

According to Breathe Freely2, of the 13,000 people who die every year in the UK from diseases caused by work, 5,000 of these deaths are caused by exposure to asbestos fibres and 500 by exposure to silica dust. That’s over 42% of these deaths.

5,500 deaths each year are caused by exposure to asbestos fibres and silica dust.

- Breath Freely

Be aware & take action

Recently, a lot more of importance has been placed on managers and workers being increasingly aware and taking action to improve conditions, and rightly so. In particular, we’re thinking of the new Health & Safety Executive dustbuster inspections that have been put into action this month. Inspectors are visiting construction sites to check plans, measures and controls are in place and people know the risks, to protect worker’s lungs from asbestos, silica, wood and other dusts.

Herbert Spencer once said, “The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.”

In other words, use best practice environmental management. Making people aware is not just about increasing their understanding and the amount of information they hold, it is in view of giving them intelligence and the ability to make the right decisions as a result; in this case, take necessary actions to keep lungs safe and in good health.

Use the right tools

The show must go on, so to speak. Buildings must be demolished, constructions must be built, and in order to do this, workers will come face-to-face with this breath-stealing enemy. However, there are many solutions to prevent against these two particular hazards we refer to above.

For best practice environmental management and to protect against dust risks, site workers need the correct tools and equipment.

Limit Exposure

The most important action would be to limit the amount of exposure each worker has to this deadly dust. Take into account time and air quality. Track length of exposure time and monitor air quality.


There is a standard of air that must be adhered to, for example 0.1mg/m3 for respirable silica. Make sure all areas are monitored and actions are taken if the air falls below standard conditions..

Get Equipped

Ensure that all workers on site have the correct protection and tools to limit any intake of dust. Items such as face masks and dust capturing equipment are compulsory for a healthy workforce.


For workers to keep safe, it is important they understand the dangers and consequences of not working safely. Site managers and supervisors should ensure that all workers know how harmful these dusts are and how they can prevent being affected by them.

Be Organised

Generally an organised and tidy site is a safe one. Make sure tasks and projects are well-planned and scheduled. Keep site tidy equipment on site, such as material and tool stores and sweepers, so there is no excuse for loss and disorganisation.

Using the right tools and being tidy makes construction sites safer for everyone. Read more about our best practice methods of tidy sites.

Prevent Dusk Risks: The Powerbrush

The Conquip Powerbrush has been used in many contractors’ best practice environmental management methods. It is key for keeping sites safe and reduce the environmental impact on the local community. This forklift sweeper cleans and collects dirt an dust from roadways, it also incorporates a dust suppressor which helps keep all hazardous particles down and out of the air which workers and inhabitants breathe.

By keeping site roadways clean and free of construction dust, the amount of lung-clogging and potentially deadly dust in the air is reduced, and dirt and debris is prevented from travelling on wheels of construction vehicles into public areas and making roads dangerous.

Find Out More About the Powerbrush