In October 2020, the Health and Safety Executive began its fourth health focused initiative of its kind. Health and Safety Inspectors across Great Britain targeted construction industry firms looking at the measures they have in place to protect their workers' lungs from dangerous airborne dusts such as silica and asbestos.
It’s becoming clearer to see why the control of dust is such a hot topic in our industry. Those of us who work in construction and demolition (especially in a management position) are being made increasingly aware of the negative impact health conditions such as occupational cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and occupational asthmas are causing. This year the Health and Safety Executive published annual statistics comparing work related ill health to work related injuries and the comparison was stark. Construction statistics 2020 (hse.gov.uk) Nowadays, the general industry workforce is impacted far more by ill health and many of the cases are directly attributed to exposure to workplace dust.
If our demolition work is not carried out correctly there is great potential to expose our workforce and the public to dust. As duty holders we must reduce this risk as far as is reasonably practicable. We do this primarily by damping down areas before, during and after demolition activity. It seems like such a simple control measure, however the effectiveness of dust suppression when done correctly is incredible. We know that the control of dust on site is made more challenging during the dryer summer months, however we have made some great gains by procuring the best dust control plant and equipment available to our industry.
At Rye all of our demolition excavators and high reach plant is now fitted with directional hoses that can be aimed at the area of choice during demolition. Supplemented by using ground level water cannons, we can reduce the likelihood of dust becoming airborne even on the driest and hottest days.
Our biggest control measure available though is education. We have made it our mission to ensure our supervisors and plant operators alike understand the importance of controlling dust on site. By raising awareness, we continue to reduce risk and lead the industry in this field.
Ben Griffiths (SHE & Operations Director)