OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH - 14.10.2020

Dust-focused inspection time

Inspectors across the country will be out and about checking to make sure that construction firms’ health standards are fit for purpose. What are they looking for?

Enforcement drive. As part of a longer term health and work strategy, the HSE has launched its fourth health-focused campaign for construction sites. The focus of this campaign will be on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease, as 3,500 builders die each year from cancer related to their work and millions of working days are lost to ill health. However, whilst inspectors are out and about they will be on the lookout for any other serious matters of concern including health hazards, e.g. noise, vibration, and traditional safety risks, such as work at height and moving vehicles. They will also be making sure businesses are applying coronavirus guidelines.

Be prepared. Inspectors will want to ensure that everyone understands the risks associated with asbestos, silica and wood dust (see The next step ). They will also want to see evidence of work being sufficiently planned with the right control measures implemented and followed. If they have concerns over the health of workers, enforcement action will be taken to ensure they are protected.

Tip. It’s a good time to review your arrangements for the management of exposure to wood dust, asbestos and silica.

Note. Silica is dust generated from cutting stone, brick or tiles, and generated when using sand.

Tip. Respiratory protection is by no means sufficient on its own to manage these risks. For example, you’ll be expected to use extraction and wetting where possible to control dust. Make sure that where respirators are used, they are fit for purpose. As a general rule, most jobs which generate dust need a respirator with an “assigned protection factor” of 20. Ask your supplier to point you in the right direction. Also ask about the necessary face-fit testing if you don’t already have it taken care of (see The next step ).

Inspectors will be focusing on respiratory risks. In preparation, review the effectiveness of your measures to control dusts including asbestos, silica and wood.

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