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Dust inhalation targeted in new HSE-backed industry campaign

Risks to construction workers of permanent disability and early death through breathing in dust on site are to be tackled by a new industry campaign.

The push wil be co-ordinated by the Construction Dust Partnership, a network of manufacturers, suppliers, contractors, designers and training bodies that are committed to tackling this serious issue. The partnership is supported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The partnership aims to harnesses the collective power of all those involved to raise awareness across the industry, drive improvements forward and encourage behaviour change through joint initiatives.The HSE said its role was to make it happen.

“The HSE aims to act as a catalyst to facilitate action through partnership working and a collective ambition to reduce the burden of occupational cancer and respiratory disease,” said Kären Clayton, HSE director of long latency health risks division.

“By putting a focus on encouraging others to take action, we are starting to see some real innovative changes regarding protecting workers from construction dust.”

Construction dust includes silica, wood and gypsum from plasterboard. The effect of inhaling these highly hazardous particles can result in severe and irreversible respiratory illnesses such as occupational asthma, lung cancer silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Builders and tradesmen carrying out jobs including cutting paving slabs or roof tiles, wall chasing, grinding, sanding and sweeping are all at risk if control measures are not in place and the correct protection is not worn.

Currently, over 500 construction workers are believed to die each year as a result of exposure to silica dust alone. However, the long latency of diseases associated with construction dust exposure means that managing and controlling this risk is often misunderstood or overlooked until it is too late.

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