Risk Assessment for Dust
A development can involve an extensive selection of possible dangers, with a seemingly endless list of hazardous substances that could threaten humans, wildlife and the environment. Among the elements that could jeopardise human health includes dust, especially as it can be created as a result of natural and man-made processes. For example, airborne solid particles ranging in size and composition can appear from natural forces such as a volcanic eruption, just as other mineral dusts with low crystalline silica content can be produced from drilling into concrete during a planning project.
Categories of dust include airborne dusts, coal dust, sawdust, wood dust, inert dusts, non-fibrous dusts, soluble dusts, organic dusts free of harmful bacteria, other airborne solid particles of dust with other physical characteristics, and any substance classified with a biological component such as aluminium oxide, polyvinyl chloride, silicon carbide and titanium dioxide.
When a tool has been used or a process has been carried out that produces airborne particles of dust, the dust particles settle slowly within the affected location. From there, inhalable dust with low toxicity that could face a short residence time in the lungs, respirable dust containing a biological agent and more particles that could include any number of elements can endanger anyone in close proximity to it.
Without proper health surveillance in the form of a dust risk assessment, individuals conducting development work that involves physical activity will breathe faster and larger quantities of potentially harmful dust, regulations and planning policies surrounding health and safety will be compromised, and both the development and any applications for planning permission could be under threat.
What Type of Hazard is Dust?
Assembled from a broad range of particles lingering in the atmosphere, dust frequently appears in any setting. While outdoor dust is made up of animal fur, dirt, insects, plant pollen and parts of other elements situated outside, indoor dust contains bacteria and mould spores, along with between 20% and 30% of it consisting of dead skin cells.
Considering how it can feature a countless array of materials, dust is unpredictable and not only has the ability to pose harm to individuals that come into contact with it, but also the potential to do so undetected. As such, the dangers of dust are worth taking seriously, particularly if exposure to dust is ongoing, in large quantities, or likely to possess harmful substances.
Harmful Effects of Dust
Even in daily life, dust can appear as a possibly harmful factor, such as in the handling of carbon black, coffee, dried food, flour, grains, paper, sugar, tea and tobacco, for example, and the immense volume of dust on construction sites through the use of cement, sand and wood demonstrates a significant threat to human health.
The primary harm from dust happens once it enters the system via the mouth or nose. It can then activate asthma, bacterial and fungal infections, respiratory disease and other respiratory problems. In more severe cases, it has the qualities to begin evolving short and long-term health conditions linked to pneumonia, toxicity in the blood, various forms of lung cancer, heart or lung disease, and conditions and illnesses such as silicosis, terminal bronchioles and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Clear scientific evidence indicates that any issues connected to properties within the dust are capable of negative health effects, such as concentrations of wood dust particles with fractions of metal present heightening the likelihood of lead poisoning. Dust can also cause irritation to the eyes and trigger allergic reactions once it comes into contact with the skin, and it offers a greater risk to people with existing health-based criteria, children and older adults.
What is a Dust Risk Assessment?
Also known simply as a dust assessment, a dust risk assessment is a type of air quality assessment that solely focuses on dust and the impact it is anticipated to have on the corresponding area. Depending on the requirements and purpose of the inspection, it may be applicable to involve assessment protocol as a component in a broader Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) or simply as a standalone assessment for retrieving hazard information regarding dust.
A myriad of construction activities in a development project can produce dust, and once lower levels of dust begin to exceed the levels recommended by the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), it becomes a risk to nearby humans, vegetation and wildlife. In an inspection, a dust surveyor will assess dust levels, gauge whether the dust levels exceed the Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL), and implement control measures to reverse the negative effects of dust and ensure the development continues as planned.
Purpose of Dust Risk Assessments
As mentioned above, dust exposure has health and safety implications, and due to that partnered with the fact that it is an unavoidable element in construction works, a dust survey is perceived as beneficial from an occupational health point of view. An inspection of respirable and inhalable dust also satisfies relevant health regulations, namely the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).
According to a study from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), general workplace dust accounted for the deaths of more than 500 construction staff in 2005 alone. Silica is a common type of dust that appears in development works, such as in construction materials like brick, clay, concrete, mortar, rock, sand and tile, generated from dust-producing processes such as cutting and drilling.
Silica dust is built up of larger-sized particles that can be avoided and smaller-sized dust particles known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS) that can be inhaled deeply into the body undetected. After asbestos, silica is judged to be the biggest threat to health, with a high duration of exposure or exercises that generate high levels capable of developing lung cancer and other widespread occupational lung diseases.
Dust Level Standards
Using expert opinion over any scientific studies, the American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) decided on the advised dust level limit more than 50 years ago, and that then was passed on to other measures in different parts of the world, such as those we use as the current UK limits. The IOM considers the levels to be insufficient and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) claims that research shows the need for a lower level of limit to safeguard individuals exposed to dust.
Even though COSHH regulations maintain the levels as expressed by the ACGIH, the IOM recommends other means of quantifying the maximum dust level to reduce exposures. Instead of the advised levels, the IOM suggests that exposure to dust stays below one milligram for respirable inert dust and below five milligrams for inhalable inert dust. That said, the contents of the dust will further reduce the recommended exposure limits, particularly in the case of toxic dusts containing biological toxins that could be considered even more dangerous hazardous substances.
Dust Assessment Method
Any development work involving potentially inhalable and respirable dust will be subject to adequate control over general workplace dusts. General methods start with the dust consultant acquiring an understanding of the planned development works, and based on that information, adding context in relation to the frequency and duration of periods whereby the development will see people exposed to the construction dust, taking into account vulnerable employees that require a safe system of occupational exposure limits.
From there, the dust surveyor can pinpoint all present dust hazards, involve measurement of dust, and predict the likelihood of injury or harm from it. A predetermined risk matrix will be used to gather a risk rating from the measured volume of dust based on each particular concern on the development site or building. Procedural controls can then be delivered and the dust consultant will be required to offer as much detail as possible surrounding the control measures to eliminate and reduce inhaling dusts.
Dust Assessment Report
After the dust surveyor has generally collected sufficient construction dust and the exercise monitoring exposure to dust over an eight-hour period has been completed, a report will be created to detail the necessary level of control required on the development site and instruct on exercises to implement control measures that will result in a dramatic reduction of harm to individuals present.
All of the information and recommendations from a dust risk assessment will be explained at length in the report. Every report will also present the control measures for dealing with construction dust in the following priority order:
Elimination – entirely eradicate uses of any equipment and practices that produce dust, such as using a different approach and alternative tools
Substitution – replacing equipment that produces dust and practices that produces dust with equipment and practices that produces less or no dust, such as using dust-suppressed materials and emulsions rather than mixing dry constituents containment or using wet methods over dry methods
Engineering controls – removing individuals from dust hazards, such as using a slight vacuum compared to the negative air pressure to build a physical enclosure in dust-formulating procedures
Administrative controls – limiting and managing exposure to dust hazards, such as instilling limits on exposure time in a shift system
Protective equipment – enforcing the use of protective equipment when dealing with a substance hazardous to health like dust, such as insisting on the use of respiratory protective equipment during wood cutting to avoid the inhalation of wood dust and partial enclosure and extraction equipment to minimise harm
Dust Management Plan
Within the report, a dust management plan (DMP) will feature as a vital document that will satisfy the local council, meet the requirements of relevant policies and regulations, and give the local planning authority no reason to deny planning applications that would otherwise be refused due to poor or non-existent consideration to dust and the effects of it on individuals and the environment.
At a baseline level, the average dust management plan would be likely to contain an outline of static monitoring and personal monitoring over airborne dust, control measures designed to reduce dust, adherence to laws surrounding dust, data in relation to the composition and size of dust particles, further cases of assessment needed before all mandates will be met, ongoing measures for controlling exposure of dust in the future, and a list of all the conditions from governing bodies and regulators.
We guarantee a high standard of service across all of our assessments, and a dust risk assessment is no different. Every single one of the surveyors working on behalf of Arbtech has the capabilities and skills to undertake a dust risk assessment for your development and initiate administrative controls and implement control measures that will minimise any risk to health created by the presence of dust and fulfil mandates that correspond with dust in relation to planning.
Through widespread coverage across the United Kingdom, we can make sure that your needs are catered to regardless of your location. Following years of experience, our consultants are immensely proficient in all areas connected to dust risk assessments, including advice on special cutting techniques that could reduce the creation of wood dust, the existing occupational exposure limits and any formal WEL that may be in place, the figures developed by organisations and regulations to limit dust exposure, the health effects of dust exposure, weighing up the expected frequency and duration of exposure, and technical areas such as gravimetric analysis and respirable fraction.
Request a Bespoke Quote
Before you receive a free quote for a dust risk assessment on your development site, we will request that you provide us with information about your project by contacting us online or over the phone. You will then receive your no-obligation quote within a few short hours, and if you are comfortable with it, let us know and we can plan a date to attend your site and undertake a dust risk assessment.
Under the expert guidance of our team, you will be able to obtain control measures that will allow your development to continue safely, tick any boxes that the local authorities need before permitting planning consent, analyse dust collected to gauge the level of danger it could impose on the development site, ensure exposure to dust is limited, counteract high levels of dust, and prevent any long-term harm from coming to anyone involved in the planning project.