Fine dust exposure: how to protect your workers

We are all aware of the hazards of high concentrations of fine airborne particles. This is especially the case in industrial workplaces where processes such as sawing, drilling, grinding and sanding frequently cause concentration levels to exceed occupational exposure limits. However, by taking proper measures to reduce exposure, you can help safeguard the health of your workers.

High concentrations of fine dust particles (e.g. quartz, wood and heavy metals) and fibres (e.g. asbestos and mineral fibres) are harmful to the lungs and can trigger allergic reactions and potentially cause cancer.   

By taking the right measures, you can help reduce fine dust concentrations in your workplace to acceptable levels.  

1. Screen off areas where excessive dust is produced

Use covers and tarps around areas where excessive amounts of fine dust are produced to help prevent the dust from spreading to nearby workers. This technique is not only useful for fine dust protection from stone and sand, such as on construction sites, but also to protect against fine dust from hazardous metals and hardwoods.

2. Use water to control fine dust

Whirled up dust, particularly in dry or windy weather, can be controlled by installing a water atomiser near dust-generating equipment and machinery. This will help settle the dust and prevent it from remaining airborne for hours on end. Humidifying the air at regular intervals will also prevent the dust from spreading to other areas.

Alternatively, machinery and equipment can be fitted with a water dust suppression system, which ensures that most of the dust generated is captured in a water tank.

3. Use an industrial vacuum system

Make sure that fine dust is removed as quickly as possible. By installing an industrial vacuum system on the workfloor, you can ensure that the dust generated during manufacturing processes is extracted on the spot. The difference between this type of system and ordinary vacuums is that an industrial vacuum system can be connected directly to tools and equipment, such as routers and belt sanders.

4. Provide respirators and dust extraction

Provide your workers with respirators that comply with health and safety standards. You could also add a dust extraction system to your machinery and equipment. In many work environments, respirators and dust extraction systems are provided but inadequately serviced or stored. It is also important to regularly replace the filters to prevent clogging.

5. Introduce a plan for traffic flow

By optimising the layout and setup of the work environment, you can limit traffic flow and thus reduce fine particle emissions from vehicles. It also prevents fine dust from being carried to other areas.  

Establish a plan to reduce traffic flow at your worksite. You could also build a dedicated road using gravel or metal sheeting. And last but not least, imposing a strict 20km/h speed limit across the site will help decrease fine dust concentration levels.

6. Create awareness among your workers

Ensure that your workers are fully aware of the hazards of exposure to fine dust and how they can contribute to a healthier work environment. By operating machinery and equipment in the designated manner, servicing tools and equipment regularly and preventing overloads, the amount of dust generated can be greatly reduced.

Are your workers protected against fine dust?

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