Health concern over construction dust masks



Alison Rodgers
Alison Rodgers

Independent inspections of construction sites have led to concerns over the use of dust masks in the industry.

The results of the 10,000 site visits made by the Building Safety Group (BSG) earlier this year reveal that many workers may not be correctly fitting the protective masks.

According to the findings, there was a 58 per cent increase in breaches of the regulations surrounding the use of personal protective equipment between the first and second quarters of 2016.

The majority of these breaches were associated with the way companies “face-fit” dust masks, the BSG said.

This is a particular concern, the BSG said, as the masks help to reduce the risk of workers inhaling dust containing dangerous chemicals.

These substances can lead to fatal diseases including lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and silicosis.

In total, the BSG inspections found that occupational health non-compliance issues rose by 28% between Q1 and Q2 this year.

Of these, there was a 13% increase in infringements concerning dust fumes and a 43% rise in violations associated with the control of substances hazardous to health.

The results have prompted BSG managing director Paul Kimpton to call for construction firms to regularly review their health and safety protocol to ensure they remain compliant with the most recent legislation.

“Everyone involved in construction has a responsibility in managing risks to health, and all parties must take ownership of their part of the process. Construction dust is not just a nuisance. It can seriously damage your health and cause life-changing lung diseases,” he said.

It comes as huge steps are being taken across the construction industry as a whole to reduce health and safety risks.

Alison Rodgers, Health and Safety Strategy Manager at CITB, said: “The figures highlight the need to eliminate dust at the source. This should be either through design, dust extraction and capturing, rather than relying on protective equipment which should be the last resort.

“The Construction Dust Partnership works hard to raise awareness among employers and workers about the serious health risks caused by dust exposure. It is pushing for new methods to be explored to keep construction workers safe.”