Dust is often seen as irritating rather than harmful. It is found almost everywhere, so we rarely pay it enough attention. Dust is actually a very dangerous substance that impacts the lives of millions of people. While the human body has various defence mechanisms to deal with the dust we breathe in, it can become overwhelmed if dust particles are small enough or in sufficient amounts.
Dust exposure in the manufacturing sector is often unavoidable. By its very nature, the work involves tasks and actions that produce and distribute dust into the air. Even with regular, thorough cleaning schedules, it is impossible to maintain safe dust levels in factories or warehouses. This means your workers’ health is constantly at risk; leaving them vulnerable to serious respiratory diseases and skin conditions that could affect them for the rest of their lives. Here are some of the main ways dust exposure can threaten the wellbeing of your workplace.
How Dust Can Affect Your Health
The health effects of dust inhalation can take several years before they fully manifest. Dust particles that can be inhaled are mostly visible to the naked eye and usually consist of heavier or larger particles that are trapped in the throat, mouth, nose and the rest of the upper respiratory tract causing damage.
Dust exposure can cause pneumonia and asthma. Occupational asthma is debilitating, but pneumonia as a result of dust build up and infection in the lungs can be fatal.
Certain dusts are worse than others, for example dusts from grain, flour, wood and reactive dyes can trigger coughing attacks, wheezing and chest tightness. Overexposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause silicosis as well as lung cancer.
Unfortunately, the chronic effects of dust exposure in the lungs are incurable. Prevention is of the utmost importance; employers need to prioritise their workers’ health and ensure that dust levels are kept to an absolute minimum.
The respiratory tract has a mucus lining. Whenever dust particles are inhaled, it is very easy for the dust to get trapped in the mucus which can be swallowed These inhaled dusts end up in the digestive tract where they cause known effects like gastrointestinal tract infection. Moreover, they can get into one’s bloodstream and harm other tissues or organs.
Whenever materials such as wood is cut or when drilling or grinding occurs, dust from these activities can come into contact with the eye causing eye irritation or damage. The dust particles can cause additional damage if they contain chemicals.
While the skin is the largest organ of the human body, that does not exempt it from irritation from dust particles. Certain types of dust can not only cause skin irritation but can lead to ulceration of the skin. Dust such as epoxy resins, wood dust, fibreglass, and rubber processing chemicals can harm the skin and lead to dermatitis, while dusts produced in certain manufacturing environments can contain carcinogenic chemicals potentially causing skin cancer.
Dust and Your Business
As an employer, it is your job to keep your workers as safe as possible. This includes minimising their exposure to dust in the workplace.
Uncontrolled dust is dangerous and presents real health hazards. If allowed to build up in an enclosed environment over time, the risk of dust exposure is increased leading to poor employee health, resulting in low productivity, profit loss, medical costs and sometimes legal proceedings. To overcome these issues, you must keep the air in your workplace as clean as possible and maintain low dust levels at all times.
What Can RCS Do For You?
RCS's engineers will endeavour to provide you with the most effective and cost-efficient solution for dust extraction, fully COSSH compliant, following current HSE guidelines and your own individual requirements. Call us on +44(0)1563 546807 or click here to contact us for more information.