Controlling Dust

When you think of dust, you think of it in your home, just the debris from lack of cleaning. But, in a construction or industrial environment it can cause health problems, cancer or even death.

Our guide to dust control has been set out to give you the main facts and point you in the right direction of controlling dust for you, your employees and even equipment.

The facts

  • Over 500 construction workers die in the UK every year from exposure to silica dust, around 10 per week (HSE)
  • 13,000 deaths occur from occupational lung disease and cancer (CPD)
  • 3,500 cancer deaths and 5,500 cancer registrations each year in the construction industries (HSE)
  • Many more suffer life changing illnesses such as asthma

Three main types of dust

  1. Dust created from materials containing little or no silica, such as plasterboard, these are known as lower toxicity dusts.
  2. Wood dust created when working with softwoods, hardwood and other wood-based products like plywood or MDF
  3. Silica dust created when working with materials containing silica, like concrete, some bricks and mortar.

Damage from long exposure to dust may not be known until it is too late. They take years to develop. You might think its only dust, but when irreversible damage to your lungs takes hold then even a simple breath could be a struggle.

When are you at risk

  • You are most at risk from jobs like: Sanding, demolition, grinding, rubble or debris clear up. Using cut-off saws, dry/wet coring or sand blasting.
  • Under the (COSHH)Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, the HSE has broken the risks into 3 sections

Assess the Risks

  • JOB: High dust levels can be caused by the job at hand, certain jobs can create a lot of dust in a very short space of time.
  • WORKING AREA: Depending on what tool you are using, an open space does not make it less likely to have a build up of dust in the air, over an enclosed space.
  • TIME TAKEN: A repetitive job over a long period means more dust.

Control the Risks

STOP DUST- Before beginning a job are there options in place to stop or greatly reduce dust around you? This can be selecting the correct tools, such as saws specifically made for the job, or going old school. A block splitter will do the exact same job as cut-off saw, can you connect a dust vacuum up to your tool when sanding?

WATER- This does not mean soaking the material before beginning the task, It needs to be used correctly at the right time and in the correct quantity. Depending on what tool you are using, seek advice from the manufacturer guidelines.

LAST DEFENCE- Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is the last line of defence in dust protection.  Any RPE used must be suitable for the user, wearing a disposable face mask over a long period of time can become quite uncomfortable, can a more permanent solution be used? Also, remember when wearing a face mask, the user must be clean shaven allowing a tight seal.

COMBINE: To reduce the amount of dust in the air, think about using air scrubbers, sealing off areas and limiting access to them and wear work clothing that will not trap dust.

Review the Controls

  • TRAINING- Train your staff to be more aware of dust and what exposure can do.
  • MAINTAIN- Keep maintaining the machines that help with dust extraction or reduction, if they aren’t working correctly or show signs of damage, are they up to the task?
  • WORK- If the job still seems very dusty, then are the controls put in place strong enough to cope?


Further advice is available from the HSE website here, we recommend you wear the correct PPE or RPE for the job or consult a qualified health and safety or occupational health expert for further information.

This blog is not exhaustive, use your common sense, if the task you do makes dust then protect yourself.



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