MEL Health and Safety Consultants

IOSH & The HSE working together

The construction industry, IOSH and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are working in partnership to reduce the risks from construction dusts, via their Construction Dust Partnership.


There are many common construction jobs that create large amounts of dust. These include sweeping, grit blasting, soft strip demolition and the hand-sanding of plaster joints. However, the most common involve the use of power tools such as cut-off saws, grinders, breakers and sanders. These can create very high dust levels, especially if the work is undertaken indoors or in an enclosed / poorly ventilated area.


Airborne dusts can present significant respiratory risks on construction sites. They are responsible for a large amount of the non-asbestos lung diseases that develop. These diseases include cancer, silicosis, asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD).


COPD is a major cause of disability and death. Approximately 10,000 people die each year from work-related lung diseases and in a lot of cases, due to exposures that took place many years before.


COPD describes a number of breathing problems where there is damage to the breathing tubes and air sacs within the lung.  Breathing in certain dusts, fumes, chemicals or gases in the workplace can cause serious lung damage.


COPD is a long-term illness that makes breathing difficult.


The lungs and breathing tubes are damaged making it difficult to get air in and out. Walking up a hill, playing football or even playing with your children / grandchildren can become difficult because of shortness of breath.


Other common symptoms include:


•       a persistent chesty cough and phlegm


•       wheezing


•       more frequent and troublesome chest infections


COPD is a slow developing condition. The symptoms tend only to start becoming a problem in mid-life, usually in the late forties onwards.


Because COPD creeps up slowly, many people do not realise they have the disease. They think their symptoms are simply due to lack of fitness or getting older. This means that often the disease does not get diagnosed in the early stages.


Once COPD develops the damage to the lungs cannot be reversed. However you can help stop it getting worse by reducing exposure to the dust, fume and irritating gases at work that are causing the problem, and if you do smoke, by stopping.


You should consult your doctor for further medical information and advice on treatments.

Info Bite 124
September 2013