Controlling on–site construction dust

Controlling on–site construction dust

The results of a recent survey conducted by IOSH and the Construction Dust Partnership (CDP) indicates that only 17 per cent of respondents felt that workers were involved in discussions about dust-related risks, and less than 3 per cent felt that workers were fully aware of the risks associated with construction dust.

It is clear there needs to be more awareness of the on-site dust risks and the measures workers can take to protect from the long-term health effects of construction dust.

What is construction dust?
The Health and Safety Executive explains that there are three main types of construction dust found on a construction site:

Silica dust – Silica is a natural mineral present in sand, sandstone and granite. It is also commonly found in many construction materials such as concrete and mortar.

Non-silica dust – The most common products include gypsum, cement, limestone, marble and dolomite.

Wood dust – Wood is widely used in construction and is found in two main forms; softwood and hardwood.

What are the risks associated with construction dust?
Construction dust can cause damage to the lungs and airways when breathed in, with the main diseases affecting construction workers being lung cancer, silicosis, COPD and asthma.

Some lung diseases, such as advanced silicosis, can develop quite quickly, but most occur gradually over years as regularly breathing in small amounts of dust adds up.

It also needs to be acknowledged that dust can impact every person on the site, including workers and other contractors that are unable to control the risk.

What is being done to raise awareness of the dangers of construction dust?
In a recent SHP Online article, Helen Donnelly, manager of the CDP, explains how the new research findings can direct new initiatives and awareness-raising projects to help improve sites.

It was found that dust risk reduction was rarely addressed at the design stage, and so the CDP has promoted designing out dust as a priority.

The report also indicates that extraction and dust suppressant equipment is not appropriately used, and there is a gap in information and training. CDP members are now developing new guidance to de-mystify on-tool extraction requirements to assist companies, particularly SMEs, when purchasing or hiring equipment.

The use of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) was also addressed in the survey. More than 50 per cent said RPE was provided most or all of time, however less than a fifth believed individuals received face fit testing. Through the CDP, manufacturers and suppliers are looking at how better to educate the industry in the importance of selecting the right RPE, wearing it correctly and ensuring that masks fit properly.

It is also important to keep dust down in the first place to protect everyone on site. An example of a recent initiative is the UK Contractors Group’s (UKCG) encouraging contractors to “bin the broom” to highlight the harmful effects of dry sweeping, which inevitably throws respirable dust back into the air.

The challenge for the industry is to move from a culture where dust is seen as an unavoidable nuisance, to one where dust is unacceptable because it causes hundreds of needless deaths every year.

Further Information

To read the full article on SHP Online, please visit:

The full report can be read here:

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