A couple of weeks ago I travelled down to Birmngham to give a talk on behalf of the BOHS Breathe Freely initiative at the Health and Wellbeing event at the NEC. The Title of the talk was Managing Health in Construction – What Good Looks Like. An annotated version of the slides I used during the talk are now available on Slideshare
To prepare for the talk I did a little research on the meaures that are readily available to control exposure to contaminants, particularly dust, during common activities on construction sites. A number of studies have been done, both on-site and in the laboratory to assess the effectiveness of water supression and on-tool extraction for power tools. These studies have confirmed just how they can be.
- A large scale study in Ireland by Healy et al showed that the use of local extraction built into on-tool shrouds could reduce dust exposures by up to 99%
- Laboratory tests by Thorpe et al showed water suppression on cut-off saws reduced dust levels by up to 99%
Despite this, in a large proportion of cases these engineering controls are not being used with reliance placed on respiratory protection which is often incorrectly used and inadequately managed. So one of the main aims of the BOHS Breathe Freely initiative is to raise awareness of the types of controls that can be used to reduce exposure. Hopefully in the not too distant future we’ll see water supression and on-tool extraction become the norm rather than the exception.
Measurements of the Eectiveness of Dust Control on Cut-off Saws Used in the Construction Industry. Thorpe et al. Ann Occup Hyg Vol. 43, No. 7, pp. 443-456, 1999
An Evaluation of On-Tool Shrouds for Controlling Respirable Crystalline Silica in Restoration Stone Work. Healy et al. Ann Occup Hyg 2014;58:1155-1167