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Dangers of Dust in the Workplace

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 5 Nov 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Dust Workplace Work Environments

Excessive dust in the workplace can be highly dangerous on a number of levels. Firstly, although it’s rare, a cloud of concentrated dust is potentially combustible and can, therefore, cause explosions so it’s important that companies keep their working environments as relatively dust-free as they can to avoid such potential catastrophes. However, the most common problem associated with dust in the workplace arises from dust-related illnesses which have been found to be one of the major killers in the UK when it comes to occupational health.

Common Environments For Contracting Dust Related Illnesses

All workplaces need to carry out cleaning duties and pay particular regard to hygiene issues and, for the most part, in places such as an office for example, dust should not present too much of a problem. However, there are many industries which need to be especially vigilant. Here is a list of some of the more common working environments where excess dust can create a real problem.

  • Mines and quarries – dust from coal, flint and silica
  • Construction sites - dust from cement and asbestos
  • Farming and Agriculture – dust from grain
  • Carpentry and Joinery – dust from wood
  • Bakeries and mills – dust from flour
  • Textiles – dust from materials like leather

Dust Related Illnesses

Workers can suffer from a variety of illnesses and medical conditions as a result of working in dust-filled environments. Depending on the nature of the work, some of these ailments can become more serious than others. The range of dust related illnesses and conditions encompass eye and nose damage, rashes and other skin conditions, asthma, silicosis, asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer related to asbestos. Pneumoconiosis, which is the name given to diseases such as those caused by the likes of asbestosis and silicosis, is a broad term which describes any condition which affects the lungs causing inflammation or scarring of the lung tissue. One of the major worries is that it can often take several decades for a person to develop any symptoms of pneumoconiosis which can manifest itself in things like excess coughing, breathing difficulties and even weight loss.

Prevention and Reducing the Risks

There are a number of government legislations which incorporate provisions which are aimed at minimising the risk from dust. These include the Factories Act 1961, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1988. There are also other regulations in place specific to certain industries, the Coal Mines (Respirable Dust) Regulations 1975, being a prime example.

From an employer’s perspective, they need to do all they can to eliminate or, at least, disperse the dust. An exhaust ventilation system will remove the dust from a particular site whilst a dilution ventilation system helps to disperse dust evenly throughout a particular area as opposed to allowing it to build up into a concentrated mass within one specific spot. Where dust has a fundamental presence within a particular occupation, workers need to be provided with the correct protective clothing and with breathing respirators if need be. These are much better than dust masks which have often been proved to be relatively ineffective. Employers should also ensure that workers undergo regular health checks which might pinpoint any early signs of illness.

What to do if You Think You’ve Contracted a Dust Related Illness

If you think your health has been adversely affected by dust in the workplace, you could be entitled to compensation if it’s proven that your condition or illness has come about as a direct consequence of your working environment, although it’s crucial that you file a claim within 3 years of any diagnosis. Legal professionals who specialise in accident at work and industrial illness will be able to advise you whether or not you have a strong enough case to make a claim and how to pursue it.

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Please visit our works. Very dusty. Bakers of Danbury Essex no hoovers, extraction inadequate. HELP ASAP
Skipy - 5-Nov-18 @ 12:56 PM
Hello, I have worked in a material room (heater room) for 2 years now and I noticed I was getting bunged up every day to where I couldn't breath through nose. I have seen a nose/throat and ear specialist who has basically said my noise is damaged through the dust the turbinate's in my nose are swollen and damaged and I need a operation to make them smaller. The room I work in has no air outlet and I have 8 machines blowing exhaust outlet into the air. and it is very dust through to the heat. What should I do as no actions in work are being done? Thank you.
craig__87 - 10-Sep-18 @ 12:54 PM
I work in the industrial cleaning & environment safe industry. one of the best article.
cleanland - 5-May-18 @ 8:22 AM
I’m a police officer and they are renovating the pct bathrooms. Dust is everywhere. The whole building itself is dirty and dusty. We also have a abandoned firearms range right below our lockers and lounge which is “off limits but not blocked off for visitors” which def has lead contamination. I have an important running test coming up for another county. Since the renovations I have had bronchitis and non stop asthma and cough. Almost a month now. I got sick when they renovations started. If I fail my test and lose a job opportunity can I sue them?
Madonepct - 18-Apr-18 @ 7:34 PM
I work for a company ware house atDHL in Mcdonough Ga and I am very concern of the ware house environment. There is lots of dust and also lots of dust on the boxes which we all breath in evry day. We are not wearing any protection to cover our eyes or our mouth. I was sent to work one day in a area out side of another area building which had huge anounts of dark dust every were. I had even wondered if they checked this area befor placing us in that area.I really want to know are these ware houses that we are places to work in have been checked by professionals in this area of our safety and free of any illnesses such as cancer and all other illnesses. Who do I contact to see if these things has been checked befor working in this type of environment. Couroue minds like mine want to know
Shrrna - 31-Mar-18 @ 11:46 AM
@Nachita - you'd have to go to the docs for alergy tests. Is it the same when you are on annual leave? If you are different when out of the workplace to when you are in the workplace then this would give you a big clue. If you are worse when you are exposed to the atmosphere of beauty products then it's quite possibly a contributing factor.
DelB - 27-Mar-18 @ 9:26 AM
I been working as a beautician in d same place (big store full of beauty products and a lot of clients in and out whole day) for about almost 4 years and since I start workingmy asthma got bad. Nowdays I been sick very constantly, I feel while I'm there that I have running nose, heavy breathing that most like it end it up in cold, bronchitis,infection, sometimes fever. Also, at the end of the day I have swalen and red eyes , and lately I got a rush.I start thinking that it's something in there that it's triggering my asthma. How can I go with this problem?
Nachita - 26-Mar-18 @ 1:30 PM
I work in an office where I am constantly sneezing coughing and blowing my nose and going to the doctor to get treated for a sinus infection I moved to this area two years ago this is my third winter in this particular area after being treated by my regular physician for a sinus infection again I decided to go to a ear nose and throat specialist.He immediately teconzed the problems with my nose and how I was getting sinus infection so easily today 3/19/18 my ent fr performed a right maxillary sinus surgery, exorcism of bilateral, concha bullosa, nasal septum plasty, reduction of inferior turbinates. Recovering pretty good we’ll see when I go back to work if they’re dirty air blowing out of the vents starts it all up again if so I will have a lawsuit
Lainie Leef - 20-Mar-18 @ 2:14 AM
ElizM - Your Question:
Hi, I work in powder metal, and I breath in nothing but that powder dust all night for 8-12 hours 5-6 days a week. should I be concerned? Anytime I blow my nose it’s always black, even when I clean my ears. And I come home pretty much covered in powder metal head to toe.

Our Response:
You can see via the HSE link here, all you need to know regarding what your employer should put in place to minimise the associated respiratory risks.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 23-Feb-18 @ 10:18 AM
Hi, I work in powder metal, and I breath in nothing but that powder dust all night for 8-12 hours 5-6 days a week.. should I be concerned? Anytime I blow my nose it’s always black, even when I clean my ears. And I come home pretty much covered in powder metal head to toe.
ElizM - 22-Feb-18 @ 8:12 PM
Aimz - Your Question:
I work as a Quality Controller in a food processing factory, in the production room there is a lot of flour residue that is quite thick in the air - constantly breathing it in. the room is not well ventilated and dusk masks are 9 times out of 10 never available. I have brought this to the attention of the production manager and to much of his dislike he organized for 3 boxes of masks which at any given shift could be 20 plus people so it will be the same situation again no masks available. Being in a not well ventilated room for 8hrs plus - I feel I have Been affected by the flour and psyllium husk residue in the air - my chest is heavy and I'm constantly coughing.

Our Response:
If you’re a worker and you’ve tried solving a problem or concern informally by talking to your manager but you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing, please see link here .
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 9-Feb-18 @ 3:00 PM
I work as a Quality Controller in a food processing factory, in the production room there is a lot of flour residue that is quite thick in the air - constantly breathing it in .. the room is not well ventilated and dusk masks are 9 times out of 10 never available. I have brought this to the attention of the production manager and to much of his dislike he organized for 3 boxes of masks which at any given shift could be 20 plus people so it will be the same situation again no masks available. Being in a not well ventilated room for 8hrs plus - I feel I have Been affected by the flour and psyllium husk residue in the air - my chest is heavy and I'm constantly coughing.
Aimz - 6-Feb-18 @ 11:18 PM
J - Your Question:
I have worked in a very dusty warehouse for the passed 12 years. I have had an eye test and they said I have damaged my eyes due to high levels of dust exposure. My eyes are constantly red and are always sore. The warehouse has never been professionally cleaned and the dust in some areas are inches think. Always have problems with my nose and throat etc.

Our Response:
You would need to take this up directly with your employer. As specified in the article, from an employer’s perspective, they need to do all they can to eliminate or, at least, disperse the dust. The COSHH Regulations require employers to assess the risk to their employees, and to prevent or adequately control the exposure of employees to substances hazardous to health. Please see HSE link here, for more information.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 5-Dec-17 @ 3:00 PM
I have worked in a very dusty warehouse for the passed 12 years. I have had an eye test and they said I have damaged my eyes due to high levels of dust exposure. My eyes are constantly red and are always sore. The warehouse has never been professionally cleaned and the dust in some areas are inches think. Always have problems with my nose and throat etc.
J - 5-Dec-17 @ 1:57 AM
Im a cleaner that cleans a cleanish area in a building but building work has started last week dust in the air all over the walls doors carpets etc all my clothes shoes every night is the same. Plus I worry I may be breathing in dangerous dust asbestos etc plus I have for small children and worry about taking that dust home with me. My employer / site manager has told me I have to clean it as its part of my work area... I only do 6 hrs a week and to breath in dust of this level plus electrical wires hanging from ceiling as they have also removed the false ceiling. More dust and plaster. No hazardous warning signs have ever been put out in the hole 1 x week 3 days. They building dates back to 17th century Which adds to my worry Do I have to clean this. Can my manager or employer make me clean this ? Thanks Joe
Joe - 17-Oct-17 @ 6:46 PM
Laks - Your Question:
Hi I work in a where houses were there is a lot of dust but never notice it until I come home have a wash and blow my nose. And a lot of black dust comes out how can I go about this problem?

Our Response:
You should speak directly to your employer and/or line manager and discuss the issues and how they are affecting you. Your employer should work with you to find a satisfactory solution to the problem such as an air mask.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 5-Oct-17 @ 2:42 PM
Hi I work in a where houses were there is a lot of dust but never notice it until I come home have a wash and blow my nose. And a lot of black dust comes out how can I go about this problem?
Laks - 4-Oct-17 @ 6:12 PM
I have COPD, and live across from a building which is to be knocked down, and a 3 storey block of flats built to replace it. I suffered last year whena small amount of building work was done further up the road. Needless to say, I didn't know that this was projected when I bought my house 3 years ago. Last year I went to live at a friend's for 3 weeks, not nearly the full time of the building work, however. I can't keep moving out, so what on earth can I do?
Amybeth - 18-Apr-17 @ 11:49 AM
I work in an industrial laundry that processes dirty hospital linnen. This is an enclosed area of approximately 30mtrs by14 mtrs which is air conditioned. Unfortunately the air conditioning is inadequate. We processs over 250 tonne of dirty linena week as you can imagine this environment is very dusty should industrial fans be placed in this environment ?
Fred - 14-Mar-17 @ 1:54 PM
I work on passenger trains inside maintenance which produces a lot of dust off chairs and carpets I'm suffering sinus problems is there and any substance I could line my nose with that would stop dust mites entering my nasel passage or would wearing dust mask be the only answer it's very hot so dust mask is very uncomfortable thank you
Rate11 - 21-Jan-17 @ 10:18 AM
I work in a food factory. We get regular medicals. There is a lot of dust from the product. Wheat. When i am off my ears are fine. My hearing is fine. Within 2 weeks of being at work my ears are blocked. We do wear ear protection but not dust masks unless using airlines for cleaning. Our occupational health providers keep changing therefore i fear there is no prolonged check on the dust levels. There was a dust level check done a few years ago but even though i have asked the results are unknown...at least to me!
Annie - 11-Jan-17 @ 12:12 AM
I work in a sweet factory. I used to love sherbet but working with it is horrible now. All the dust it creates. I have a constant headache and always sneeze and cough. But they don't have dust masks as PPI. Is sherbet bad for your lungs and shouldn't they already be taking precautions. It's affecting me at work and my health generally. I just don't know what I should do.
Bino - 24-Nov-16 @ 1:41 AM
Denise - Your Question:
My husband works in a warehouse, and since he has been working there he has been getting these bad rashes on his inner arms, his neck , and thighs. We are are trying to figure out whats what's causing it ,his Dr didn't seem to think it was nothing that needed a percription to him to buy some cream over the counter. but it looks very serious to me and it itches

Our Response:
I'm afraid we cannot anticipate what the rashes may be - he would have to see how the rashes progress and would have to visit his GP again, if they persist. It may be co-incidence they have come when he has been working in his current job, some allergy tests may be needed.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 26-Sep-16 @ 12:27 PM
My husband works in a warehouse, and since he has been working there he has been getting these bad rashes on his inner arms, his neck , and thighs. We are are trying to figure out whats what's causing it ,his Dr didn't seem to think it was nothing that needed a percription to him to buy some cream over the counter.. but it looks very serious to me and it itches
Denise - 25-Sep-16 @ 4:54 PM
I work in a ware house which don't get me wrong is bound to be dusty! but at the moment they are developing the warehouse and rebuilding it. It's covered in paint fumes, carbon monoxide fumes from generators and sissors lifts and about four inches of dust. No exhaguration! And we're customer service based but the noise of them angle grinding etc is ridiculous! Recently I've had bad vertigo, feeling heavy chested, sick and a horrible painful gut! Can this be related to the dust I'm inhaling? And all the rest I'm breathing in? It's just everywhere! You can even see it in the air, yet noone will clear it up. It's so bad I'm cleaning my boots every ten minutes because there covered. And I'm washing my clothes and warehouse coat and trousers every single day even when I'm not wearing them just because there covered in so much dust! What can I do about this? The company I work for think that there doing everything properly via risk assessment and health and safety etc; but I feel like i can't breathe!We have no windows or doors close to us. It's so hot and clammy? Can I do anything about this? Because I've been told if o have anymore time off work I'll loose my job, but I can't help it I'm uncomfortable there.
Accidentpro - 11-Sep-16 @ 7:57 PM
Leojan - Your Question:
I do a voluntary shift in a charity shop , selling mostly clothes. I have noticed lint dust around the shop and the day after I have worked in the shop I cough quite a lot , the cough is productive but clear. It has occurred to me that there should be extractor fans to remove this dust as it could be injurious to health but I am reluctant to say anything as I enjoy the work now that I am retired and would like to continue working there. I am not sure what to do?

Our Response:
I can only suggest you mention this to your line manager. Does the charity employ cleaners?
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 22-Aug-16 @ 12:46 PM
I do a voluntary shift in a charity shop , selling mostly clothes . I have noticed lint dust around the shop and the day after I have worked in the shop I cough quite a lot , the cough is productive but clear. It has occurred to me that there should be extractor fans to remove this dust as it could be injurious to health but I am reluctant to say anything as I enjoy the work now that I am retired and would like to continue working there. I am not sure what to do?
Leojan - 21-Aug-16 @ 11:05 PM
@San - According to the HSE, the law requires employers and the self-employed to conduct their business in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons affected are not exposed to risks to their health or safety. Therefore, because this is an unusual question and if you have concerns, you may want to contact the HSE direct to find out, via the link here. I hope this helps.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 31-Mar-15 @ 10:16 AM
I am a support worker working in a house supporting people with various disabilities. The company I work for is having building work done on the property I work in. New kitchen,floors wall being knocked out, fire doors etc. they have told us they will work round us. How can this be. I'm concerned for the health of the tenants as well as myself. Is this legal. ?
San - 28-Mar-15 @ 3:38 PM
I'm working for pikitup under RcR loading my problem is we are exposed to dust everyday the only thing they provide for safety are dust mask once or when somebody from the head office is coming for inspection on how we do our jobs if possible provide me with the right door to complain cause I'm experiancing some of the symp
papas - 10-Mar-15 @ 8:54 PM
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