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Health & Safety - Builder's Lungs

HSE have announced that inspectors are visiting sites nationwide throughout October 2018 to see if ‘health is being taken as seriously as safety’. These inspections can result in enforcement action being taken when ‘material breaches of legal duties are found’. Inspections will be focusing on factors that can affect and deteriorate builder’s lungs, so it is important to understand the risk, plan your work and use the right controls.

The HSE’s Guidance to Inspections states the following:

  • “Inspecting and enforcing where inadequate standards of control are found for construction dust risks. It focuses on common tasks, prioritizing those with the potential for significant exposure / risk of ill-health.”

  • Regularly breathing construction dust can cause diseases like lung cancer, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and silicosis. Construction workers have a high risk of developing these diseases because many common construction tasks can create high dust levels.Not all lung diseases take years to develop. Some, like acute silicosis or occupational asthma, can occur more quickly.

  • These diseases cause permanent disability and early death. Over 500 construction workers are believed to die from exposure to silica dust every year.

  • Construction firms across the country will be targeted on their health standards in an HSE campaign to tackle the dangers of site dust. It is the first time the regulator has targeted the industry with a specific focus on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease. Inspectors will be focusing on measures firms have in place to protect their workers’ lungs from the likes of asbestos, silica and wood dust.

So what can you do ensure Health is as important as Safety?

Ensure that dust masks are being used when carrying out jobs that involve wood dust, asbestos, silica and/or any other types of harmful dust. It is important that these dust masks are face fit tested by someone who is qualified and able. 

“Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are killed in construction accidents. Annually, work-related cancers, linked to asbestos and silica, are estimated to kill 3,500 people from the industry. Thousands of others suffer life-changing illnesses from their work.

As a result, we’ve launched this inspection initiative to find out what exactly businesses in the construction industry are doing today to protect their workers’ health, particularly when it comes to exposure to dust and damage to lungs.We want construction workers to be aware of the risks associated with the activities they carry out on a daily basis; be conscious of the fact their work may create hazardous dust; and consider how this could affect their health, in some cases irreversibly.

We want businesses and their workers to think of the job from start to finish and avoid creating dust or disturbing asbestos by working in different ways.We want to see construction firms encouraging their workers to firstly keep the dust down and wear the right mask and clothing.

Ultimately, we want construction workers’ lungs to be protected from ill health, so they can go home healthy to their families and enjoy long careers in this important industry.” 

Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Construction

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