Dangers of Dust in the Workplace

Here is an in-depth article from the World Health Organisation regarding dust in the workplace.  Please follow the link to read the full article.

Dangers of Dust in the Workplace

Hazard prevention and control in the work environment: Airborne dust (WHO, 1999)
WHO/SDE/OEH/99.14
© 1999 World Health Organization

https://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/airdust/en/

“Executive summary
Purpose
Airborne contaminants can occur in the gaseous form (gases and vapours) or as aerosols, which include airborne dusts, sprays, mists, smokes and fumes. Airborne dusts are of particular concern because they are associated with classical widespread occupational lung diseases such as the pneumoconioses, as well as with systemic intoxications such as lead poisoning, especially at higher levels of exposure. There is also increasing interest in other dust-related diseases, such as cancer, asthma, allergic alveolitis and irritation, as well as a whole range of non-respiratory illnesses, which may occur at much lower exposure levels. This document has, therefore, been produced to aid dust control and the reduction of disease.

Whenever people inhale airborne dust at work, they are at risk of occupational disease. Year after year, both in developed and in developing countries, overexposure to dusts causes disease, temporary and permanent disabilities and deaths. Dusts in the workplace may also contaminate or reduce the quality of products, be the cause of fire and explosion, and damage the environment.

As a matter of social justice, human suffering related to work is unacceptable. Moreover, appreciable financial losses result from the burden of occupational and work related diseases on national health and social security systems, as well as from their negative influence on production and quality of products. All these adverse consequences, which are economically costly to employers and to society, are preventable through measures which have been known for a long time, and which are often of low cost.

The aim of this document is to help educate and train people in the prevention and control of dust in the workplace. It also aims at motivating employers and workers to collaborate with each other, in tandem with occupational health professionals, for the prevention of the adverse effects caused by dust in the workplace. Of course, dust is only one among the many workplace hazards, which include other aerosols (such as fumes and mists), gases and vapours, physical and biological agents, as well as ergonomic factors and psychosocial stresses.”

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Safety Risk – https://safetyrisk.net/dangers-of-dust-in-the-workplace-and-how-to-handle-it/

Dangers of Dust in the Workplace and How To Handle It
March 8, 2013 by Dave Collins

Guest post

“Introduction
Dust is a very dangerous occupational health hazard to millions of workers out there. There are so many sources of dust and almost any manufacturing company produces dust of some form. Some of the most serious respiratory diseases as well as skin conditions contracted from the workplace can be attributed to dust. The dangers of dust can either be short term or long term.

Short Term Dangers
The immediate dangers of dust arise from the combustive nature of dust and the dust particles suspended in the air the worker breaths. They are few but can be severe enough to cause instant death or serious physical impairment. Here are some of the short term effects of dust:

Risks of injury as a result of explosion
Rarely a cloud of dust, which may be highly inflammable, explodes leading to serious fires. The blast produced by the explosion can give rise to projectile objects that can cause injury due to impact. Larger objects may cause death by hitting the worker while smaller ones may penetrate into the body and cause internal injuries.

Respiratory problems
The dust particles suspended in the air when small enough can be inhaled into the upper airways (the nose and the pharynx) causing blockage and lead to breathing difficulties. For those already suffering from respiratory problems such as asthma and pneumonia; dust can exacerbate the problem and cause acute attacks.

Skin problems
Dust may contain irritant chemicals such as those used to treat timber. If such dust settles on the skin, it can chemically react with skin causing itchiness, redness, scaling and dryness. Dust may also have corrosive effect leading to ulceration and breaching of the skin’s integrity.

Visual disturbances
Small dust particles may deposit in the eye and occlude the lens and also cause irritation of the eyes. This will manifest with excessive production of tears which is very uncomfortable.

Long – Term Dangers
These are the most common and the most severe dangers of dust in the work place. They take years to develop and at times it may be difficult to associate them with exposure to dust. Some may take as long as 50 years after exposure to manifest. Here are the common long term effects:

Asthma and pneumonia
These are airway diseases that cause difficulty in breathing. Asthma is caused by allergic reaction to allergens including dust particles. Pneumonia on the other hand is caused by deposition of dust particles in the lungs and encourages infection.

Lung cancer
This is the most dreaded long-term and the most severe danger associated with workplace dust. It may take too long to develop and this makes it very difficult to link to dust exposure. If not recognised early, it always leads to death.

Skin cancer
This is quite rare but can be very severe if it happens. Irritant dust contains carcinogenic chemicals that can cause skin cancer when it comes in contact with the skin.

How to Lower the Dangers
Most countries have laws or legislations that govern occupational exposure (Australia) and companies in which dust is produced are expected to adequately protect their workers from the effects of dust. As an employer, you are expected to try as much as possible to minimise the amount of dust expended from the workplace. Here are some of the ways you can ensure that dust is adequately dispersed:

Adequate ventilation
An exhaustion ventilation and/or diffusion ventilation can be used. The former removes localised dust as in a chamber while the latter ensures balanced dispersion of dust within an area where it cannot be totally eliminated.

Use of dust extractor or a vacuum
Most companies now use these services to rid the workplace of dust. Dust extraction equipment serves to clean off tiny dust particles by sucking them. They are especially important in cleaning off dust that might accumulate under the machinery, a situation that increases the risk of explosion.

Use of protective clothing
Workers should be provided with aprons, head covers, dust masks or ventilators that keep the dust away from coming into contact with the body.

Heath education and regular health check for the employees
Workers should be educated on the health effects of dust as some may disregard the protective clothing they are provided with. Regular check-up can recognise the effects early and allow for successful intervention.”

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Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

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