To most people, dust is just a nuisance. Depending on which country or region you live in you may encounter high levels of dust from the land around you or you might just have normal household dust that needs to be wiped away when cleaning.
In a workshop environment, however, things are more serious. Dust presents hazards that can easily be ignored but can have serious consequences. Certain types of dust can cause occupational illnesses and worse.
The ILO concludes that more than 2 million people will die from an accident or disease related to the workplace, every year. That figure equates to more than 6,000 deaths per day. 160 million people suffer from occupational illnesses each year and many could be avoided just by using proper dust extraction.
What dangers are presented by not having good dust extraction?
Metal and wood dust can cause a range of problems in the workplace, as can certain fumes. There are a number of illnesses associated with dust and fumes and just some of them are listed here:
- Lung cancer
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Occupational asthma
- Organic dust toxic syndrome
The risk of you developing any of these diseases depends on what type of fumes or dust you are coming into contact with in the workplace, and what PPE you are equipped with, and what dust extraction is in place. For instance, metal dust exposure is linked with lung deterioration, and welding fumes are known to cause lung cancer.
Other reasons to install good dust extraction
Apart from occupational diseases, dust and fumes can irritate the skin, eyes, and nasal passages. This can exacerbate allergy symptoms or cause new problems. However, it isn’t just illness that dust affects.
Machinery, workplace morale, accident, and fire risks are also affected by dust in the workshop.
Clean working environment
Maintaining a good workplace environment is important to keep your staff’s morale high. No one wants to work in a dirty, dusty workshop.
Maintaining power tools and machinery
Out of all the tips for looking after your power tools, one of the best is to make sure they are clear of dust and moisture. Dust extraction can help to stop machinery from being clogged with dust and extend the life of your power tools.
Fire and accident hazard
Dust in the air can create a risk of fire, and wood dust in the air can combust under certain conditions. Not only is dust capable of causing a fire it can also cause slips. A fine layer of dust on flooring can easily lead to slips in the workplace and these can be highly dangerous when there is machinery around.
What equipment should you install?
There is a range of equipment to help with workplace dust extraction but everyone has different needs. It may be that you need spray booths while someone else requires downdraft tables. The best way to receive good dust extraction advice is to consult with a professional company that is experienced in this area.
They will be able to do an assessment of your workplace and then suggest what you need to do. Once you are happy with the plan the company can then supply everything needed and install it.
Using a professional company is essential so that legal requirements are met.
What is COSHH?
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, or COSHH, has a set of regulations regarding safety in the workplace.
These are UK regulations relating to employee protection from a list of hazardous substances. Other countries will have their own regulations but they will generally follow similar rules.
COSHH involves an employer asking themselves some questions and then putting into place ways to avoid any harm coming to their workers. First, they would need to look at what hazardous substances are used, how could they harm someone, and how can that risk be reduced?
These regulations can help a company put into place systems to ensure the workplace is safe and healthy. A company that specialises in dust and fume extraction can assist in this area by testing all current equipment and evaluating the air quality and suggesting changes.
If you use Local Exhaust Ventilation to provide protection for workers then these systems will need to be regularly tested by qualified people too.
If you ignore proper dust extraction then you may be endangering yourself and your employees. The risks from exposure to certain types of dust range from simple skin irritations and runny noses to lung cancer and death.
And, from a financial standpoint, you will be helping your tools and machinery last longer, and avoiding any accident claims or compensation.
The millions of occupational disease diagnoses each year could be reduced massively just by installing the proper equipment. You can make your work environment healthier with dust collectors and vents. Not only will your workshop be a safer environment to work in, but it will be better for your staff’s morale too.