A newly-published survey which was conducted jointly by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the Construction Dust Partnership (CDP), which aimed to discover how well issues with on-site dust risks are controlled and perceived, has shown that workers feel the issue of hazardous dust must be highlighted more in their workplace.
The results of the joint survey - which questioned more than 600 workers from throughout the construction industry - show that 44 per cent of workers currently feel that the industry considers the control of construction dust of "very little" priority. By contrast, just 12.5 per cent thought it was considered "a priority health issue".
When taking the survey's findings into account with the harsh reality that over 500 UK construction workers a year die from lung cancer caused by silica, and also the fact that cases of asthma, silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder caused by construction dust are still highly prevalent, it is no surprise that employees feel that more needs to be done to ensure employers put dust risk higher on their list of priorities.
What's more, respondents to the survey believed that not only is the issue given a lack of priority by employers, but among workers awareness of the risk is poor, and worryingly they felt there was little desire to change this. Poor understandings and use of on-tool extraction, an over-reliance on respiratory protective equipment as the main form of controlling dust risk, and inadequate management arrangements to control dust were also listed as the main areas of concern for the respondents.
IOSH recently launched their 'No Time to Lose' campaign to highlight occupational cancer, which accounts for around 8,000 deaths per year in the UK, in which silica dust is recognised among the carcinogens, which need more attention.
Research and information services manager at IOSH, Jane White, said: "The report clearly details that not only is the use of extraction and dust suppressant equipment not appropriately used, but the comments received also suggest that there is a confused picture about its availability, effectiveness and suitability for different tasks. There is a serious gap in information, instruction and training that we must rectify."
Clearly, to improve the situation, work needs to be done to raise the awareness about the risks and controls. As the report concludes, "the construction industry often poorly understands and controls dust risks. Given the serious health risks and the impact that this has on the lives of workers, the industry now has to face up to this challenge.
"The industry creates this risk. It now needs to acknowledge it, own it and deal with it."
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