Many tasks involved in the construction industry regularly produce significant levels of dust. Perhaps because the damage to the health of those who inhale this dust is often not apparent until they develop serious lung disease, often many years later, there is concern that the industry is failing to control these risks adequately.
As a consequence the Health and Safety Executive has launched, with a range of partners, a targeted month long "Dust Kills" inspection campaign this June which targets specifically the control of dust within the construction industry and in construction operations, with a focus on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease.
The HSE's "Dust Kills" partners include the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) and Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), Construction Leadership Council (CLC), Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) and the Construction Dust Partnership.
Health & Safety Executive inspectors will be visiting sites and looking at policies, procedures, training and equipment and reminding both employers and workers of the risks and their legal duties around the control of dust.
Where inspectors find evidence of breaches of duty, they have a range of intervention options at their disposal. These include simply giving advice, issuing enforcement notices, or - in the more serious cases - ultimately criminally prosecuting those who do not comply with their health and safety obligations.
Sarah Jardine, the HSE’s chief inspector of construction, summarised the campaign objectives as follows:
“Through our inspection initiatives, inspectors can visit a range of construction sites to check the action businesses are taking to ensure their workers’ health is being protected. Through speaking to dutyholders we can make sure they have considered the job from start to finish and are effectively managing the risks.
“We want everyone, workers and their employers, to be aware of the risks associated with any task that produces dust and use effective control measures, such as water suppression, extraction and masks, to prevent exposure to dust to ensure they are protected from harm and ill health.”
“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." Peter Crosland, National Civil Engineering Director, CECA