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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently launched its latest campaign, titled ‘Dust Kills’. The campaign aims to prevent construction workers from inhaling dangerous dust at work, which can lead to preventable but serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions such as silicosis or asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis and the cancer mesothelioma.
‘Dust Kills’ is part of the government and the HSE’s wider Work Right campaign. This targets smaller businesses and self-employed workers to ensure they prioritise safety by managing workplace risks to avoid work accidents and work-related diseases.
As part of ‘Dust Kills’, the HSE has been carrying out extra worksite inspections around the country to check dust control measures. Their Chief Inspector of Construction, Michael Thomas, says:
“Every year, we see construction workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work. This is unacceptable in the 21st century when occupational lung disease is preventable.
“We are urging employers and workers to take the necessary precautions today to protect their long-term lung health, to avoid them and their families suffering from the devastating impact that can result.”
According to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (known as COSHH), there are 3 main steps to be taken into account when workers are carrying out tasks on sites where a large amount of dust is present. These are:
High dust levels are often created due to tasks which involve a lot of energy (including high-powered equipment such as saws); take place in an enclosed work area where dust builds up; take a lot of time; or take place frequently.
The HSE suggests controlling dust levels by using different tools or work methods (for example block-splitters instead of saws); using water or extractors to dampen down or remove clouds; and wearing proper PPE, including a well-fitting mask.
Even if proper controls are in place, construction workers and site managers should routinely check them for effectiveness, equipment should be well-maintained and workers should be supervised and consulted to make sure they are following the rules.
To underline how serious failures in dust control can be, site inspectors can fine those responsible for construction sites which break health and safety law. This includes a fee to cover the cost of the time the inspector has had to spend dealing with the breach.
“The ‘Dust Kills’ campaign draws attention to the real risk construction workers face if they don’t take dust and its consequences seriously.
“Many of the health conditions caused by dust exposure, such as silicosis and asbestos diseases, take years to develop. There is absolutely no reason to be complacent – just because the effects of dust exposure are not always immediate, it does not mean that they are not devastating.
“If you have been exposed to dangerous dust at work because of your employer’s negligence, and they do not take steps to control and prevent further exposure, you should report the breach to the HSE as soon as possible.
“If occupational dust exposure means you have been diagnosed with a serious disease, you should speak to a specialist personal injury or asbestos disease lawyer as soon as possible to discuss making a compensation claim.”
If you or a loved one has developed a disease from inhaling dust at work, you might be eligible to claim compensation.
Our expert, compassionate legal team will support you every step of the way, and offer ‘No Win, No Fee’ funding.
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