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Dust: The Silent Killer in the Workplace

29 November 2022

DUST IS often used to refer to something as insignificant. For example, how often might you think, ‘it's nothing but a speck of dust’? We certainly don’t take it seriously, and the majority of us don’t realise how dangerous it is. Most commonly, dust is just a nuisance in our daily lives, and we think we can remove it with just a brush of cloth.

But what if we told you that dust actually has the potential to kill you? Much like a horror movie plot, it's silent and takes its time, but you will eventually feel its effects. So, to help you open your eyes to the dangers of dust in the workplace, we have put together a comprehensive guide to highlight to you the full extent.

Why is Dust Dangerous?

Dust is all around us, and the majority of the time, it is so fine and small that we cannot see it fully with the naked eye. For example, a speck of dust can be 100 times smaller than a single grain of sand. So, you don’t need to see the dust to breathe it in, so we refer to it as the silent killer.

As soon as dust particles are in your lungs, they begin doing damage.

You will begin to notice your quality of life decreases. However, symptoms and side effects are usually not clear for many years. Once it is apparent that you are dealing with the effects of dust inhalation, it is often too late to treat this damage.

2 Types of Dust in the Workplace

So, we have established why dust is dangerous. But did you know that countless construction workers die every week as a result of dust inhalation?

You may encounter many types of dust in the workplace, which can be divided into two categories.

Inhalable Dust

Inhalable dust is the larger particle of the two dust types, and it can be filtered out naturally through your nose and mouth. For this reason, it is the lesser dangerous dust group of the two categories.

Respirable Dust

Respirable dust is much smaller and cannot be filtered through your nose and mouth. This makes it much more dangerous and can lead to serious health problems with prolonged exposure.

4 Ways Dust Can Affect You

Ultimately, constant inhalation of dust over a long period can be fatal. But there are many ways that dust can affect employees with various health problems.

1. Lung Cancer

It is estimated that, on average, 43% of the deaths caused by lung cancer are due to the inhalation of asbestos and non-asbestos substances in the workplace. It highlights dust to be a serious health hazard in the workplace.

2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases include the likes of emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which contribute to 33% of current annual deaths from occupational lung diseases.

3. Silicosis

Around 500 construction workers die each year as a result of silicosis. Otherwise known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS), silicosis causes inflammation and fibrosis of the lung tissue, which are irreversible. Side effects and symptoms include shortness of breath and persistent cough, which grow worse and worse each year.

4. Asthma

For asthma sufferers, exposure to dust can radically affect this long-term chronic disease and how it can be managed. When respirable dust gets into your lungs and causes inflammation and swelling of your airways, it will induce asthma symptoms.

Getting the Help You Need

With more than 3,500 construction workers dying each year as a result of cancers related to their work, it is transparent that dust is a major hazard in the workplace.

Luckily, there are options available to manage and remove dust from these environments with quality dust management and air solutions.

If you’re not sure if dust is a problem on your site, you can also utilise dust management assessments for a full rundown of the danger posed in your working environment.