Respirable dust is the invisible killer no-one is talking about

According to the Health and Safety Executive, around 12,000 people in the UK die from dust inhalation related to exposure in the workplace every year and hazardous industries need to improve the working environment.  

Although regulation is tightening to improve working conditions, it is the fear of legal claims and corporate social responsibility that is focusing attention for managers, board members and shareholders. 

Safety regulation across the globe has become ever more stringent as authorities have recognised the dangers associated with working in hazardous dusty environments, such as respirable crystalline silica (RCS). From mining to tunnelling and further afield, hundreds of thousands of individuals are working every day in high dust environments, and therefore at risk of contracting occupational lung diseases from inhaling hazardous dusts, most notably silica dust. 

While regulations become ever tighter, balancing employee wellbeing with performance, productivity and a good working environment is far from straightforward. 

Without accurate, immediate and continuous access to critical information about the current levels of dust in the environment, organisations simply cannot make health and safety decisions in real time. 

The lack of immediate information regarding air quality is affecting every aspect of the hazardous environment: 

  • Organisations are struggling to ascertain risk levels
  • Regulators are constrained in their ability to adequately enforce new regulation
  • Workers are also suffering – not only potentially long-term health issues but also immediate concerns regarding the workplace

To further add to concerns, the traditional process for analysing air quality has its own flaws; it’s slow and expensive, to name just a few: 

  • Samples are collected through a filter over a period – typically eight hours
  • Samples are sent off for laboratory analysis – a process that takes up to two weeks
  • Data is manually uploaded into the operational system – but can be used only for retrospective analysis

However, there is a solution to the issue of respirable dust in the workplace. Real-time dust monitoring. 

The latest dust monitoring technology operates in real time, providing continuous analysis of dust levels, which is fed directly into an operational system. In addition to being considerably less expensive and time consuming than sending samples to the laboratory for analysis, the real-time insight transforms day to day operations. 

Real-time dust monitoring provides managers and senior members of staff with information as soon as possible on changing dust levels, which can transform the quality of the working environment and improve both health & safety and businesses corporate social responsibility. 









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    E-book: Understanding the cost of gas detection technologies in hazardous industries

    Organisations are continually focused on improving efficiency and making effective use of financial resources. However, with extensive regulation and budgetary demands in place for most, are these costs all justified? 

    In this e-book, we consider the new thinking enabled by total cost of ownership focus. From the investment in individual products, such as personal gas detection systems, to supporting a multi-environment management model. 

    When reviewing specific aspects of the safety equipment portfolio, focus is not only on ensuring any new regulations are met but also to maximise exposure to technology innovation and, of course, take advantage of any opportunities to drive down costs. 

    Radically reducing the cost of consumables will release significant budget that safety managers could then use to explore new and innovative safeguarding solutions. The ability to confidently consider improvements in areas such as ventilation and personal monitoring enable organisations to go beyond basic compliance to current legislative requirements and proactively future proof the business. 

    The ability to combine real-time information about an individual’s health – from air quality to heart rate – will become increasingly key in safeguarding individuals, enabling safety managers to take immediate action in the event of an incident and provide organisations with accurate data to mitigate the risk of legal action in the future.  

    Personal gas detection has been required for many years; but as regulators extend this model to include exposure to silica dust, for example, the ability to combine real-time hazard monitoring with personal biometrics will provide individual employee health profiles. 

    Considering the total cost of ownership, rather than up front price alone, will offer value even if organisations are operating in environments with just one or two gases; for those companies in highly complex environments, where workers are at risk of exposure to up to five or six different gases – requiring four high-cost gas detection cells the total cost of ownership benefits delivered by a low-cost consumable model is very significant. 









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      Changing the emphasis from workplace safety to health

      When it comes to worker wellbeing, the historical focus has been around making workplaces safer – avoiding injury due to falling equipment, reducing injuries, and so on. However, we are now seeing a shift from general safety to concentrating more on employee health, especially the potential impacts on long-term health associated with working in hazardous environments.  

      This is due, in part, increased awareness regarding the long-term health hazards associated with dust inhalation, with a CIPD survey finding that 47% of employers now think that employee wellbeing is directly linked to business performance. 

      The Health and Safety Executive’s 2016/17 review indicated a changing emphasis towards health by demonstrating their priorities for the following 12 months, identified as establishing:  

      A three-year health and work programme to reduce levels of a number of long-term health issues, including: 

      • work-related stress 
      • musculoskeletal disorders 
      • occupational lung diseases 

      Reducing longer term health risks, including 880 inspections in the construction industry to tackle exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS). 

      A study compiled by the University of Birmingham and Health Exchange highlighted that improving employee health factors – which obviously have better long-term health implications – can also actually decrease the chances of workplace injuries due to increased employee awareness and performance. 

      It has become increasingly clear that many working environments create hazards that have a long-term impact on employees, an impact that is not always immediately visible. While physical injury remains a serious risk in the mining and industrial workplace, respirable dust exposure is one of the greatest hazards experienced by miners and workers in a wide range of industries, even today, and can cause serious long-term health implications. 

      Whilst in the past, real-time dust monitoring was both expensive and short lived, the latest generation of dust monitoring technology is both low cost and low maintenance, meaning that dust monitoring is becoming a primary technology to support organisations in their bid to deliver long term employee health alongside safety. 

      With growing concerns around dust-related illnesses, real-time dust monitoring is essential to relieving these health concerns. While the latest generation of real-time dust monitoring technology provides the information to enable organisations to be far more sophisticated about balancing employee comfort with safety, it is just the start. 









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