The Impact Of Dust In Our Working Environment


Dust is a very dangerous health hazard and according to HSE (Health and Safety Executive) it is estimated that the UK has over 37,000 people who suffer from some form of breathing or lung condition. Some of the most serious respiratory diseases as well as skin conditions are contracted from the workplace and can be attributed to dust.

Where is the dust likely to occur?

Dust can be an issue in almost any industry. Silica and wood dust hazards are well recognised but there are many more substances that generate dust which are hazardous to health. Exposure to such dusts needs to be prevented.

Examples of work activities that can create dust:

  • Cutting, e.g. paving stones
  • Weighing loose powders
  • Sieving and screening operations
  • Crushing and grinding
  • Cleaning and maintenance work
  • Milling, sanding down
  • Conveying materials
  • Clearing up spilliages

What are the effects on health?

Dust is not always an obvious hazard because the particles which cause the most damage are often invisible to the naked eye, and the health effects can take years to develop. This dust can be inhaled, it can irritate your skin, it can cause eye damage and you can ingest it.


  • Dust that enters the nose and mouth during breathing is referred to as ‘total inhalable dust’. Some dusts may consist of larger or heavier particles that tend to get trapped in the nose, mouth, throat or upper respiratory tract where they can cause damage.
  • Dust particles that are small enough to be breathed into the lungs are called ‘respirable dusts’, these dusts can build up in the air spaces in the lungs leading to lung damage.

Skin contact

  • Some dusts can cause ulceration of the skin, and irritation, or skin sensitisation can be caused by dusts such as epoxy resins, rubber processing chemicals, wood dust and fibreglass which can lead to dermatitis.

Eye contact

  • Dust particles produced during the cutting, grinding and drilling of materials can cause eye damage/irritation, some dusts may cause eye damage/irritation due to their chemical nature.


  • Some inhaled dusts can become trapped in the mucus that lines the respiratory tract. This tends to be either spat out or swallowed. The dust can then get into the digestive tract where they can cause local effects such as gastrointestinal tract irritation. The dust can also enter the blood stream and produce effects in other organs and tissues.

Prevention and control

Where it is not reasonably practicable to prevent exposure to dust, a combination of engineering and process controls may be appropriate, some of these include:

  • Encouraging workers to work with care and instructing them how to control the dust produced by their work activities.
  • Maintaining a good standard of cleanliness.
  • Providing a good standard of ventilation.
  • Using a vacuum cleaner or wet method to keep floors and surfaces clean and remove any spillages. Avoid using a compressed air line or dry sweeping.

Clemas & Co Ltd can advise you on the correct equipment for specialist cleaning, call us on 01684 850777 or email:

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