Dangers of Dust in the Workplace and How To Handle It
Dust is a very dangerous occupational health hazard to millions of workers out there. There are so many sources of dust and almost any manufacturing company produces dust of some form. Some of the most serious respiratory diseases as well as skin conditions contracted from the workplace can be attributed to dust. The dangers of dust can either be short term or long term.
Short Term Dangers
The immediate dangers of dust arise from the combustive nature of dust and the dust particles suspended in the air the worker breaths. They are few but can be severe enough to cause instant death or serious physical impairment. Here are some of the short term effects of dust:
Risks of injury as a result of explosion
Rarely a cloud of dust, which may be highly inflammable, explodes leading to serious fires. The blast produced by the explosion can give rise to projectile objects that can cause injury due to impact. Larger objects may cause death by hitting the worker while smaller ones may penetrate into the body and cause internal injuries.
The dust particles suspended in the air when small enough can be inhaled into the upper airways (the nose and the pharynx) causing blockage and lead to breathing difficulties. For those already suffering from respiratory problems such as asthma and pneumonia; dust can exacerbate the problem and cause acute attacks.
Dust may contain irritant chemicals such as those used to treat timber. If such dust settles on the skin, it can chemically react with skin causing itchiness, redness, scaling and dryness. Dust may also have corrosive effect leading to ulceration and breaching of the skin’s integrity.
Small dust particles may deposit in the eye and occlude the lens and also cause irritation of the eyes. This will manifest with excessive production of tears which is very uncomfortable.
Long – Term Dangers
These are the most common and the most severe dangers of dust in the work place. They take years to develop and at times it may be difficult to associate them with exposure to dust. Some may take as long as 50 years after exposure to manifest. Here are the common long term effects:
Asthma and pneumonia
These are airway diseases that cause difficulty in breathing. Asthma is caused by allergic reaction to allergens including dust particles. Pneumonia on the other hand is caused by deposition of dust particles in the lungs and encourages infection.
This is the most dreaded long-term and the most severe danger associated with workplace dust. It may take too long to develop and this makes it very difficult to link to dust exposure. If not recognised early, it always leads to death.
This is quite rare but can be very severe if it happens. Irritant dust contains carcinogenic chemicals that can cause skin cancer when it comes in contact with the skin.
How to Lower the Dangers
Most countries have laws or legislations that govern occupational exposure (Australia) and companies in which dust is produced are expected to adequately protect their workers from the effects of dust. As an employer, you are expected to try as much as possible to minimise the amount of dust expended from the workplace. Here are some of the ways you can ensure that dust is adequately dispersed:
An exhaustion ventilation and/or diffusion ventilation can be used. The former removes localised dust as in a chamber while the latter ensures balanced dispersion of dust within an area where it cannot be totally eliminated.
Use of dust extractor or a vacuum
Most companies now use these services to rid the workplace of dust. Dust extraction equipment serves to clean off tiny dust particles by sucking them. They are especially important in cleaning off dust that might accumulate under the machinery, a situation that increases the risk of explosion.
Use of protective clothing
Workers should be provided with aprons, head covers, dust masks or ventilators that keep the dust away from coming into contact with the body.
Heath education and regular health check for the employees
Workers should be educated on the health effects of dust as some may disregard the protective clothing they are provided with. Regular check-up can recognise the effects early and allow for successful intervention.
About the author:
Danny is a professional blogger. He has been writing for the web for more than 2 years and has covered many interesting topics in the business and HR area. Currently he is researching about workplace safety and health, especially dust and abrasive blasting related topics.