Dust, dust, dust – it seems to get everywhere when you’re constantly running power tools and other machinery. Those working on a construction site will tell you how they go home and almost need to de-dust before relaxing for the evening. But how do you keep dust levels to a minimum on a construction site?
Before looking at the advice, why should you care about dust in the first place? Not only is it frustrating, but it can also cause health problems for all those on the site. Unfortunately, the problem with dust is that it doesn’t cause immediate issues in the body. Instead, it sits in the airways and lungs over several years. Eventually, this can cause COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), lung cancer, asthma, and silicosis.
Elsewhere, dust can also cause problems for those near the construction site, like neighbors. The more dust you generate while building, the more likely you are to affect the homes, vehicles, and outdoor furniture of others too.
If you want to reduce dust on a construction site, one of the most obvious tips is to use materials that don’t need lots of preparation on the site itself. Since this isn’t always possible, another route is to reduce the power of the tools used on the site. Rather than a high-energy cut-off saw, go for a block splitter.
Elsewhere, another prevention method is to use direct fastening or screws. By adapting working practices, and investing in a vacuum for construction dust, you can reduce dust generation when on the construction site. For the same reason, some professionals choose to cut roof tiles and other materials by hand.
Of course, prevention is the best method, but it’s not always an option. With this in mind, two suppression/management techniques may help.
Firstly, you can fit tools with an LEV (local exhaust ventilation) system. Previously, tools would generate dust and this dust would travel everywhere (and this is no understatement). Now, the LEV system removes dust as it’s produced, and you keep dust levels down on the site.
Secondly, water can suppress the clouds of dust that normally accumulate. However, this is a more difficult technique to master. To remain effective, you need to always use the right amount of water.
To prevent long-term health problems, all construction sites should have the right RPE (respiratory protective equipment) available for all workers. Preventative and control measures can only go so far, so RPE removes another element of risk and adds another layer of…well, protection.
For example, one of the most common pieces of RPE comes in the shape of powered face masks. When researching RPE, you’ll notice that all equipment has a score referred to as APF (assigned protection factor). Construction sites generally require an APF of at least 20. Of all the dust in the air, the wearer breathes in 1/20th.
What’s more, pay attention to comfort for workers. Just because a piece of equipment adds to safety, this doesn’t count for much if it’s uncomfortable for workers and causes issues when worn. Additionally, make sure that all RPE and other equipment are compatible together. Finally, remember that training is essential in the construction industry. Over time, workers can cut corners and take risks when it comes to safety. Make sure that they’re always wearing the right safety equipment, even if they only plan on using tools for 30 seconds.