A significant number of the 3,500 occupational cancer deaths in the construction industry are caused by asbestos, silica or wood dust exposure
HSE is taking on dust exposure on construction sites with a series of site inspections, starting next Monday (15 May) and continuing through May, June and July.
The construction industry suffers from a higher than average number of lung-related health issues, often stemming from occupational dust exposure.
HSE figures estimate that 46% of mesotheliomas in men in their seventies is associated with the construction industry- carpenters alone account for 17% of cases. A form of lung cancer, mesothelioma can develop several years after breathing in asbestos fibres.
The inspections will be supported by HSE’s Dust Kills campaign
Dust kills, provides simplified advice and guidance on the Work Right website, for employers, small builders and workers, to help everyone understand the risks and how to stay healthy on site.
Inspectors will be checking the control measures in place on site to protect workers from dust exposure and inhalation, especially from substances such as silica and wood dust.
Asbestos management will also be a priority of the site inspections.
Reducing the risk of dust exposure may be more complex than you think
Dust Kills counts the Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) and Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), Construction Leadership Council (CLC), Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) and Construction Dust Partnership among it’s partners.
Peter Crosland, National Civil Engineering director, CECA said: “Construction workers still die every week from respiratory related illnesses brought on by their work and this is clearly not acceptable in the 21st century.
“The reasons behind these fatalities are, I believe, quite complex as no one intentionally sets out to cause harm to either themselves or others but nevertheless these illnesses are still occurring.
“Some of the possible reasons include lack of awareness of the legal duties of employers, lack of awareness of the damage dust can actually cause and lack of time on projects to plan work properly, and that’s both at the design stage and on site. Working together with HSE and other stakeholders, we hope to provide valuable advice to those that need it most.”
The risk of dust exposure must be considered throughout projects
HSE’s chief inspector of construction, Michael Thomas, said: “Our inspectors will visit a range of construction sites to check businesses are taking the necessary action to ensure their workers’ long-term respiratory health is being protected.
“Through engaging with those on site, we can make sure they have considered the job from start to finish, have considered the risks at each stage, and are managing the risks with effective measures in line with the broad hierarchy of control options such as water suppression, extraction, and as a last resort Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).
Safety standards in the industry are constantly evolving
Suppliers and manufacturers are much more considerate of the health risks posed to installers than in the past- for example, Actis Insulation’s materials are designed to reduce emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and do not release irritating fibres.