6 steps to understanding air pollution in the workplace

Research released from the World Health Organisation* shows that air quality is still an issue in work environments across the globe. While pioneering dust monitoring systems are being introduced in more workplaces than ever, it’s important that employees themselves champion clean air and revolutionary technology.

Why should you care about air pollution in the workplace?

Being aware of the risks at work can help bring about much needed change in many industries. Experts are calling for air pollution to become identified as a separate risk factor in the workplace** so that more can be done to begin monitoring harmful particulates and reduce the chance of premature illness for workers.

Every employee has the right to work in a place where the risks to health and safety are properly controlled by an employer. However, it can be daunting not knowing where to start when attempting to challenge old workplace habits. It helps for employees to educate themselves on how to implement this in their work environment, whether it be in mining, construction or other heavy process industries.

How can you reduce the risk of air pollution in the workplace?

Here are some of the key need-to-know facts and information for employees who want to reduce their risk of being exposed to air pollution in the workplace:

1. Naturally reduce air pollution by making the change to renewable energy

Where possible, encourage employers to switch to renewable sources of energy as opposed to fossil fuels and coal. This naturally brings down the levels of particulates in the air and will allow for a cleaner environment.

2. Know that no environment is too challenging for dust monitoring

Revolutionary safety technology and dust monitors can reduce risks in even the most polluted work environments. Create safety systems that are unique to your business and the risks from air pollution in the workplace will be lowered significantly.

3. Protect outdoor workers against air pollution

Don’t neglect dust monitoring in outdoor areas. Airborne particulates can be found within a 300-metre radius on construction sites which, when inhaled, can damage your lungs and have long-term health implications.

4. Make sure office workers aren’t breathing in polluted air

It’s not just manual workers who breathe in particulates and need their workspace monitored. Office workers and other administrative staff who work on or near the site can be breathing in the same harmful air, even from cabins and other portable offices.

5. Assess and control the risks of air pollution in a workplace strategy

Even when risks appear minimal, it’s all about control. Implementing strategies means your workforce can be aware of any potential dangers and then act on them accordingly.

6. Know the facts about air pollution in the workplace

Around 12,000 deaths every year*** are linked to exposure to damaging substances such as silica dust at work. It’s only by addressing these issues that risks can be minimised in the workplace.

What progress has been made around air pollution in the workplace?

The good news is that there are now fewer employers that don’t implement strategies in the workplace where there are increased risks, but there is always more that can be done. With so much awareness being raised about the damaging effects of air pollution, companies are now wising up to the risks, meaning more employees can benefit from a healthier and cleaner work environment – and it’s never too late to learn.

Read more about how to tackle air pollution in your workplace or find out how Trolex dust monitors like the Air XD  can help you monitor particulate levels and create a safer working environment.

Sources

*World Health Organisation

**Financial Times

***HSE

5 ways to reduce silica dust exposure and prevent silicosis

Silicosis has become a growing health and safety concern for the industrial sector; however, knowing how to prevent silica dust exposure is a more complicated issue. To make understanding silicosis easier, we’ve done some research into silica dust and created this guide on how you can reduce exposure in your workplace.

What is silica?

Silica is a naturally occurring substance that can be found in varying amounts in sand, clay, gravel and some rocks and stones.

Also known as ‘quartz’, silica is commonly found on construction sites, due to its prevalence in building materials such as concrete, tiles, mortar and bricks.

Where does silica dust come from?

Carrying out common construction tasks such as grinding, drilling and cutting generates dust, which can easily be inhaled if the dust is fine enough.

Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) – also known as silica dust – can get deep into the lungs when breathed in, which, over time, can lead to lung cancer or other serious respiratory diseases.

What causes silicosis?

Dust inhalation affects thousands of workers – around 3,000 construction workers suffer from work-related breathing and lung problems per year*, losing businesses thousands in lost productivity. The HSE estimates that silica inhalation was responsible for the deaths of more than 500 construction workers in 2005.

It’s usually the result of heavy and prolonged exposure to RCS over the course of many years, although it is possible to develop acute silicosis more quickly if exposed to extremely high levels of dust.

What are the symptoms of silicosis?

Silicosis poses a high risk to workers. Its symptoms – which typically present as a persistent cough, shortness of breath and exhaustion – can take years to develop and may not occur until years after exposure or can gradually continue to worsen, potentially leading to fatal respiratory failure.

Unfortunately, silicosis can’t be cured as the lung damage is irreversible, but it can be managed – and, more importantly, it can be prevented.

How to reduce the risk of Silicosis and silica dust exposure

1. Wear suitable workwear in environments with risk of silica exposure

One of the most effective ways of minimising silica dust exposure is to provide your workers with personal protective equipment (PPE), such as respirators which cover the nose and mouth.

Disposable respirators only give minimal protection and need to be changed regularly, so you’ll need to assess the working environment to decide if they can adequately protect your workers from silica dust inhalation.

For more hazardous environments, half or full-face respirators offer a better degree of protection – but remember they need to be cleaned after every use.

2. Keep equipment clean in workplaces with high levels of silica

Contamination can be a major cause of concern in these environments. Workwear can be contaminated by silica dust – which, in some cases, is so fine that it can barely be seen – so it should always be washed separately.

There are specialist laundries that offer industrial cleaning services, to reduce the risk further. Additionally, any equipment used in areas with silica dust should be thoroughly cleaned after use and stored in a dust-free place.

3. Use engineered controls for dust suppression

Using local exhaust ventilation (LEV), which removes dust at its point of origin so that it doesn’t enter the air can be a very effective form of dust suppression, as can dust containment systems which continuously remove and filter the contaminated air.

4. Use wet methods when working in dust-heavy areas

Wet methods involve spraying water on an area before carrying out a task that generates a lot of dust, such as drilling. Wetting the surface before working on it suppresses the number of particles in the air and therefore workers’ exposure to silica dust.

5. Monitor dust levels

A dust monitoring system can monitor the air quality in the workplace, whilst also measuring the size and concentration of any airborne particles. This is one of the best preventative measures you can take to help reduce the risk of silicosis – constantly monitoring the air in real time allows you to easily spot any areas of concern.

Most dust monitors can only measure one particle size at a time, but the AIR XD Real-Time Dust Monitor uses advanced laser technology to monitor multiple sizes at once, adding an extra level of protection against both silica dust exposure and silicosis.

Reducing silica exposure in the workplace requires commitment, but if you’re interested in finding out how to protect your workers against the dangers of silica inhalation and reduce the risk of silicosis in your workplace, get in touch.

*Source – citb.co.uk

The Ultimate Guide To Dust Monitoring

As employers, we have a responsibility to make sure that our people are protected at work.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles, leading to the inhalation of hazardous particulate matter. As decision makers and employers, we can work to significantly reduce this number. How? By employing modern safety technology.

Effective particulate monitoring procedures and units can help us to protect not only the lives of our people, but the financial future of our businesses.

We’re here to offer a helping-hand in understanding the fundamentals of dust monitoring and particulate matter.

In this blog, we’ll be getting down to basics with:

  • Some dust monitoring jargon
  • Answering the questions: ‘What is dust monitoring?’ and ‘Why do we need it?’
  • Outlining the dangers of dust inhalation

Dust Monitoring Jargon

Here’s a basic introduction to some common language around particulate matter and dust monitoring… You can find a longer glossary of technology types, Air XD- specific terms, diseases and legislation in our Jargon Buster.

For now, let’s start with the basics: size measurements in particulate monitoring.

µm

The unit of measurement used to describe the size of an individual particle i.e. 1µm (or a micron/micrometre = 1 millionth of a meter. A human hair is typically around 60µm diameter.

 

PM

‘Particulate Matter’ – A mix of solid and liquid droplets suspended in the air to form. I.e. PM10 refers to all particles of 10µm and below in a sample. Our engineering team mocked up a quick graph that may be easier to understand:

It is common practice for legislation to monitor PM1, PM2.5, PM4.25 and PM10.

nm

Short for nanometre. Particulate sizes smaller than 1µm. For example, when we say the Air XD’s range starts at 0.35µm, this is expressed as 350nm in nanometres.

Ug.m3

The measurement of particulate matter present in a given amount of cubic air – the measurement most frequently measured by legislation.

TSP

‘Total Suspended Particulates’, a regulatory measurement of the total mass concentration of particulate matter in a concentration of air or liquid.

What is dust monitoring

Dust monitoring is the detection, assessment and control of particulate matter or ‘PM’ – the mix of solid particles and liquid droplets suspended in the air. Particulate matter is monitored by size and concentration. There are various different safety technologies that perform particulate monitoring, to varying degrees of accuracy and depth.

Modern dust monitors like the Air XD are able to provide in-depth detail of particulate matter present in the air, across a wide-spectrum of potentially very hazardous

Why do we need dust monitoring?

It’s not just compliance with the law that makes dust monitoring necessary. Effective monitoring allows us to majorly reduce risk of illness and save the lives of our people. It can also financially future-proof businesses, by recommendations of more intelligent dust control methods, protection against potential litigation claims, minimising product loss through leakages and increased productivity to name but a few.

Dangers of dust inhalation

Respirable dust is the invisible killer that no-one is talking about. The infographic demonstrates the effect of each particulate size on the human body and provides examples of each. Long-term exposure to some of the most dangerous respirable particulates <2µm could lead to life-threatening diseases like silicosis, COPD, Black Lung Disease and lung cancers.