The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a crackdown on dust inhalation on construction sites.
The watchdog said it would “take the necessary action” if its inspectors uncovered safety risks when checking the systems and equipment in place to protect workers from airborne particles. But it has yet to confirm how it will enforce these measures.
Lung disease affects thousands of construction workers every year, according to the body, often with life-changing consequences, sometimes even leading to death.
As part of its Dust Kills campaign, the HSE is inspecting sites this month to check employers and workers know the risks, plan their tasks and use the right controls.
HSE chief inspector of construction Sarah Jardine said occupational lung disease had a “devastating impact” on individuals and their families, and was preventable.
“Every year, construction workers are dying from diseases caused or made worse by their work,” she added. “We are urging employers and workers to take the necessary precautions today to protect their long-term lung health.
“Through our inspection initiatives, inspectors can visit a range of construction sites to check the action [that] businesses are taking to ensure their workers’ health is being protected. Through speaking to duty-holders, we can make sure they have considered the job from start to finish and are effectively managing the risks.
“We want everyone – workers and their employers – to be aware of the risks associated with any task that produces dust, and to use effective control measures such as water suppression, extraction and masks to prevent exposure to dust, to ensure they are protected from harm and ill health.”
The HSE has partnered the British Occupational Hygiene Society, the Construction Industry Advisory Committee, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), the Construction Leadership Council, the Health in Construction Leadership Group and Construction Dust Partnership on the Dust Kills campaign.
CECA national civil engineering director Peter Crosland said: “Construction workers still die every week from respiratory-related illnesses brought on by their work and this is clearly not acceptable in the 21st century.
“The reasons behind these fatalities are, I believe, quite complex as no one intentionally sets out to cause harm to either themselves or others, but nevertheless these illnesses are still occurring.
“Some of the possible reasons include lack of awareness of the legal duties of employers, lack of awareness of the damage [that] dust can actually cause and lack of time on projects to plan work properly, and that’s both at the design stage and on site. Working together with HSE and other stakeholders, we hope to provide valuable advice to those that need it most.”