We can no longer be ignorant about killer dust

Did you hear about the plane crash that killed everyone on board? Your answer likely depends on where you live.

According to researchers at the University of Oxford: ‘English Wikipedia readers were much more likely to read about North American and European crashes, and Spanish Wikipedia readers were more likely to read about Latin American crashes.

Page views on English and Spanish Wikipedia for North American and Latin American aircraft crashes, respectively, were each about 50 times greater than for African crashes.’

These events are tragic, to be sure, but the deaths from these situations are more generally heard about than others, such as from dust inhalation – despite technology and processes available to help prevent them.

The decay of novelty

It also depends on when the crash happened, with Royal Society Open Science discovering that irrespective of the crash location and body count, ‘on both English and Spanish Wikipedia, page views dropped in half between three to 10 days after the event’. The decay of novelty as we lose interest in things when they stop being new.

The ‘finite pool of worry’

And then there’s how much capacity you have left to care, the concept scholars refer to as the ‘finite pool of worry’.

‘Because people have a limited capacity for how many issues they can worry about at once, as worry increases about one type of risk, concern about other risks may lessen.’ says The Centre for Research on Environmental Decisions.

Proximity. Timing. The competition with other concerns for a limited capacity to impact emotions. It’s a complicated old business. Disaster, its impact, its legacy and even the ways we look at – or away – from it. That’s only talking about sudden disastrous events; the plane crash, typhoon, earthquake, and other similar events.

The slow-motion disaster

What about the disaster that inexorably unfolds? The slow-motion cumulative disaster. Disaster that – over time – takes far more lives than the one off tragedies? Or even a succession of one-off tragedies?

What about:

  • The 8.9 million people killed by air pollution a year?
  • The 1 million work-related fatalities annually?
  • The hundreds of thousands around the world dying every year from workplace dust inhalation?
  • The millions whose lives are irreparably damaged every year from inhaling dust in the workplace?

As we’ve seen, it’s human nature to focus on more recent, local, high-profile events. Discreet, distinct, storylines.

However, don’t the disasters we overlook – the slower moving, less attention-grabbing tragedies that play out day after day – deserve our attention too?

The threat from dust inhalation

The problem of particulate and dust inhalation is widely ignored, so too is the priority in finding viable solutions.

This is why we do what we do at Trolex, and why we’ve set ourselves the challenge of reducing the risk and impact dust inhalation can have on workers around the world who are rarely spoken about.

This is done through the development of technology like the AIR XD Dust Monitor, XD ONE Portable Dust MonitorXD1+ Personal Dust Monitor and AIR XS Silica Monitor alongside supporting software, to deliver data in realtime and make sure every worker knows the state of air around them.

We haven’t stopped there, however. Our engineers are constantly asking “what can we do so that, in 10 years time, every worker in the world exposed to dangerous particulates is wearing personal dust monitoring?”

This is easier said than done, of course, but it’s a challenge we’re committed to undertaking and beating. As well as setting ourselves the task of overcoming the engineering challenge, we’re having to face those natural ‘hidden in plain sight’ biases discussed above.

We’ve privately funded each project every step of the way – from research and development, to manufacturing and distribution. Every penny.

Independently developed dust monitoring technology

Not that we mind. In fact, we’re proud to have independently conceived and created our range of real-time dust monitoring products: innovative dust monitoring technology that’s now the envy of the industry.

These products are perfectly capable of helping us meet our 10-year challenge, and in the process save many thousands of lives.

Set against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the billions and billions of pounds spent to combat it, the macabre irony hasn’t been lost on us, that worldwide more people have died inhaling dangerous particulates in the last five years than they have from Covid 19.

Unnecessary deaths that for only a couple of million pounds backing, our technology could still go faster and further in preventing.

Maybe we should call for a lockdown?

Learn more about dust monitoring systems and technology

We work with businesses around the world to improve the safety of hazardous work environments and give workers a better chance at reducing the risks of dust inhalation. The long term effects can be severe and, while it might not be as obvious or attention grabbing as other tragedies, we’re committed to doing what we can to help those at risk.

If you’d like to know more about our dust monitoring systems and how they can help your worksite, get in touch with our team of experts today.

‘The industry creates this risk. It now needs to acknowledge it, own it and deal with it.’

The IOSH Construction Group Committee Construction Dust Survey makes for sobering reading. Firstly, it highlights the fact that much more needs to be done to increase awareness of the dangers of dust from an employees perspective:

“Dust causes a lower level of concern among employees than the more immediately noticeable dangers of construction, such as falls…they do not perceive it as a significant immediate risk to their wellbeing unlike falls from height, equipment etc.”

It also highlights a lack of awareness from the industry as a whole. Of 618 health and safety professional respondents, ‘44.6 percent thought that the industry gave little or no priority to the issue, and a similar proportion (42.4 percent) felt that it received the same priority as other health issues.’

And even when awareness exists, the report found that compliance is weak.

‘54.0 percent of respondents indicated that workers sometimes fail to follow prescribed methods of work. Over a third of respondents (36.2 percent) indicated that this happened most or all of the time.’

So what’s going on? Why, even when employers and their onsite teams are in possession of the facts, do they too often choose to ignore the dangers posed by dust?

Dangers that lead to 10 deaths a week from lung cancer caused by silica dust, let alone the other illness and premature death from other cancers, silicosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

A cognitive dissonance

You’ll be familiar with the concept of cognitive dissonance, ‘the state of discomfort felt when two or more modes of thought contradict each other’.

Like knowing smoking is bad for you, but continuing to smoke.

Like, “we know dust is dangerous but there’s no convenient, low-cost alternative to handling the risk. So we’ll stick with what we’ve always done.”

Barriers to change

There’s a lot to learn in the Construction Dust Survey.

More than anything, it’s highlighted that despite being increasingly aware of the dangers, people aren’t taking action.

Somehow, industry has convinced itself that the culture and adoption of, the management of, and the cost, complication and general hassle of creating a safe working environment is more trouble than just leaving things be.

Here are just some of the barriers to change noted in the survey:

Culture: The culture of the industry, and its ‘traditional’ view of dust as an expected or normal part of construction work, can be a significant barrier.

Use: Workers often view the controls as cumbersome, impractical, affected by poor maintenance or giving rise to other risks. This deters use. 

Employees: Implementing controls effectively depends on good management and supervision. Operators generally choose not to use controls. 

Management arrangements: In general, the industry does not seem to manage dust control issues adequately. Comments refer to a link between the management priority given to this issue and the corresponding conditions found on-site.

Cost: Dust control is often viewed as labour-intensive, expensive, time-consuming and a nuisance that slows work.

‘The industry creates this risk. It now needs to acknowledge it, own it and deal with it.’

It somehow seems that as awareness increases, industry seems to think a cultural shift towards safer working environments will run its own natural course over time.

“It is like wearing a hi-vis 15 years ago or hard hats. It took years for the culture to change.” says a contributor to the report.

Fortunately, we’ve taken a far more proactive approach.

A fast-track alternative

What if we could fast track that safer working environment?

What if that cognitive dissonance could be eased instantly and increased awareness could be achieved overnight? And what if you only ever had to use dust control methods when you actually needed them?

It’s hard to not be aware of something when an alarm is screaming in your ears and bright lights are flashing.

Well, here’s the thing.

A low-cost, simple-to-use, personal alarm would help solve the problem overnight.

All those adoption and implementation objections, all the excuses and all those barriers to change would evaporate. Instantly.

And here’s another thing.

That low-cost, simple-to-use, personal alarm exists.

It’s new and it’s here.

The XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor.

Get in touch today and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how real-time dust and silica monitoring technology can protect your workers from the threat of preventable disease.