Millions of workers are at risk because of dust for two reasons; the danger of combustion, and dust-related illness. Dust can cause explosions if there is a concentration cloud of dust and a source of ignition, and it is only through careful management and risk-minimisation that there are relatively few injuries caused in this way in the UK.
Dust-related illness is a much bigger problem for workers, and has been found to be one of the largest occupational killers in the UK. In 2003, there were around 4,000 deaths from industrial illnesses caused by dust such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer, and silicosis.
Workplaces where dust may cause health problems
These are some of the places of work in which workers may be exposed to large amounts of dust:
– Mines (coal dust)
– Quarries (silica dust and flint dust)
– Textiles (leather dust)
– Mills and bakeries (flour dust)
– Building sites (cement dust and asbestos dust)
– Agriculture (grain dust)
– Wood-related work (wood dust)
There are 65,000 people who work with flour who are thought to be at significant risk of industrial illness as a result of poor dust control. Over 70 bakeries have been served with notices to improve working practices over the last 3 years as a result of low levels of health and safety regulation compliance.
Most dust-related industrial illnesses take many years to develop, with people not realising they have them for up to 40 or 50 years in some cases. Pneumoconiosis is the name given to dust-related disease that affects the lungs, of which there are a number, including silicosis and asbestosis. Silicosis and asbestosis cause inflammation of the lungs and scarring of lung tissue, and symptoms such as weight loss, coughing, and severe breathing difficulties n95 mask for sale may also be present.
Other illnesses that can be caused by dust include:
– Skin conditions
– Eye damage
– Nose damage
How to reduce the risk of dust-related injuries and illnesses
The general health and safety regulations which protect employees from dust include the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Factories Act 1961, and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1988. There are other regulations which may apply to specific industries, such as The Coal Mines (Respirable Dust) Regulations 1975, that provide extra protection for workers.
These are some ways in which employers can help make a cleaner, healthier environment for their employees:
– Installing an exhaust ventilation system, where dust is removed from the site of generation
– Installing a dilution ventilation system, where dust is spread evenly throughout the area
– Ensuring employees wear proper protective clothing and are aware of the importance of it. Nuisance dust masks are not considered adequate protection by the Health and Safety Executive, with respirators a much more effective solution
– Ensuring employees undergo regular health checks to pick up any early signs of possible illness
What to do if you have been diagnosed with a dust-related illness
A compensation claim against your employer or former employer may well be a possible option, and one that should be explored within 3 years of diagnosis (or of the accident, in the case of an explosion caused by dust).
Employers have a duty of care for those working for them, and if they failed to ensure the well-being of staff and injury was caused as a result, then it is likely the injured worker will be entitled to compensation.
The first step to making a compensation claim is to obtain legal advice from specialists in industrial illness and accident at work compensation who will have experience and knowledge of claims similar to yours. The legal advice should be free and without obligation so you can make the decision of whether to proceed with the claim.