On 6th June 2019, RVT hosted the inaugural Action on Dust Summit, at the British Medical Association House in London. This event was a collaboration of high calibre construction professionals working together to create a step change in the way we protect the health of workers on site. It is the consensus that awareness is not enough anymore; action needs to be taken. During the event, we therefore asked the delegates to consider the following;
"What does 'good' dust control look like? CDM regulations stipulate that measures must be 'reasonably practicable' – but how should this be interpreted?"
There was a great response to this question and between everyone in the room we managed to agree what 'good' looks like and how we can carry this way of working forward.
First of all, we addressed the term 'reasonably practicable'. This is asking us, as responsible, professional adults to make a judgement call. It is asking us to assess the level of risk and decide what actions can be taken to reduce or eliminate that risk within financially viable limits. Delegates agreed that this is a difficult call to make, however the key is to keep the level of risk and the level of investment balanced; all too often this is grossly disproportionate, which is why the number of deaths due to work induced lung disease currently sits in the region of. 12,000 people per year (HSE, 2018).
So how can we achieve good dust control within financially viable limits?
Delegates agreed that the first step is to try and design out the hazard. Is there a different way – a safer way – to achieve the same result? Perhaps by changing the materials? or adapting the engineering controls? If the risk cannot be eliminated completely, then we are looking for a process that reduces the risk.
With regards to effective dust control, we need to ensure that we are capturing as much dust at source as possible. For example, on-tool extraction is usually ideal for small works, however for larger projects we should be using an extraction unit that has a hood or extraction arm that can sit right on top of the activity. This will ensure that the vast majority of the dust is extracted before it becomes airborne; however, depending on the sensitivity of the environment, we should also consider containing the work zone using tents or plastic sheeting. For example, if we are working in a 'live' environment, such as an office block, school or hospital, we will not only need to consider sealing off the area, but we will also need to apply negative pressure to ensure that there is zero dust migration.
As the last line of defence, we should also be assessing the need for RPE; such as face fit masks and coveralls etc. However, it is also important to factor in regular face-fit tests and other checks to ensure RPE continues to be fit for purpose.
One delegate also reminded us that risks change, especially if we are continuously moving around site; we therefore need to regularly check that our risk assessments are still valid and continuously monitor for improvements.
Ok, so now we've planned our 'reasonably practicable' dust control measures, how are we going to ensure our workers understand and follow the processes? Everyone was of the same opinion that his comes down to education, training and communication.
Delegates in the room suggested; hands on training courses, workshops, CPD presentations, posters and sometimes even supervision on site. Delegates were reminded that the HSE, BOHS and RVT Group, all supply FOC educational materials to not only communicate best practice on site, but also to warn workers of the health implications if they choose not to follow it.
For more information from the HSE, please click here.
For more information from BOHS, please click here.
For more information about RVT Dustex solutions, please click here.
If you are interested in attending the next event or would like to arrange a Free CPD presentation for your team, please call RVT Group on 0808 178 3286 or email firstname.lastname@example.org