There is no construction site without the dust. Dust comes from all sources – the wood, exhaust fumes, flying dirt, grinding metal particles, demolished concrete and brick, and many more. The combination of these particles forms air debris and dust.
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Read on to learn more about construction dust, why it matters, and the best protection measures for this on-site hazard. But let’s start by setting a few records straight.
Popular Construction Dust Myths
Construction dust is harmful.
Although these tiny particles are not visible to the naked eye, they are harmful to our systems. A blend of dirt, exhaust, metal particles and wood bits can adversely affect the lung if continuously absorbed in the system. Crystalline silica is even more harmful, causing permanent lung damages in most cases.
All construction dust is not the same.
Contrary to popular belief, dust doesn’t comprise the same particles. Dust is made up of various materials from different particles. For example, lumber, fibreboard, or plywood are sources of wood dust. Similarly, Quartz, a component of many construction materials, is the source of silica dust. Mould and similar particles also find their way into the air during demolition projects. Therefore, the type of dust on any construction site depends on the materials on-site and the project type.
Construction dust is preventable.
Yes, you can prevent construction dust or protect yourself from its dangers.
Sources of Construction Dust
Every construction site contains some level of dust, which often occurs naturally. However, the levels are higher on certain sites with specific projects. For example, road construction or demolition will generate more dust. Generally, you can expect any project that entails blasting, sawing, hammering, drilling, or grinding to be dusty.
Harms caused by Construction Dust
There are proven safety and health concerns associated with construction dust. The mild dangers include eyes and skin irritation. It gets worse when it attacks the lungs, causing permanent respiratory damage or lung cancer. In addition, breathing in crystalline silica regularly causes Silicosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Asthma, and other health issues.
Construction Dust Prevention
While it is practically impossible to prevent all construction dust completely, you can effectively prevent or reduce its extent. Here are some proven methods:
Keeping the area well-ventilated.
If you are working interiorly and your activities produce dust, you should prioritize proper ventilation. For example, demolishing, sawing, or grinding inside a closed space requires adequate forms of ventilation, including fans and others.
Cleaning up regularly.
Whether you are on an interior project or any other smaller-scale engagement, it is important to maintain your workspace properly. Clean up as you leave to prevent the accumulation of construction dust and an overall safer environment. Consider using air filters, vacuum cleaners, and surface wiping to capture dust and ensure they do not escape into the air.
Certain equipment comes with dust catchers, and this can be very useful. You can also put sweepings in a box before disposing of them. Another way to reduce the amount of dust that flies through the air is to install dust screens around the edge of the site.
Spraying with water.
You can use water to reduce debris from mixing with the air and ultimately control dust. For example, water can help reduce dust during concrete sawing or masonry. It also comes in handy during rock drilling, where you fit rock trucks with a water tank that sprays down the construction site. Spraying is more effective in dry construction sites or during larger projects.
Tracking dust levels.
There are specialized air quality monitors that help to keep track of the concentration and size of air particles. Construction site managers have the responsibility to keep track of construction levels and use the data generated to improve safety levels for employees and everyone on site. For example, a project that produces high dust levels will require more dust-reduction measures.
Construction Dust Protection
The best form of protection from construction dust is to prevent it. We have identified a few preventative measures above, but you can achieve personal protection by wearing PPE when on site. Breathing masks are designed to filter out dust and other harmful particles in the air.
It is also essential to identify the type of materials and chemicals you are working with on-site. Whether they are produced as construction by-products or are used as construction materials, certain chemicals and materials can contribute to dust pollution.
Always report strange occurrences on projects to the supervisor. For example, having black mould or asbestos around is a strange occurrence that must be reported to help protect other workers on site.
We tend to see construction dust as another component of construction sites. However, keeping the air cleaner by preventing and reducing the amount of dust in the air is crucial to protecting everyone on site. Site workers should also be encouraged to wear PPE and learn more about the materials being used on the site.
Dust accumulation happens over time, likewise the harms associated with it. Therefore, we must expect dust and prioritize its effective management.