Health Topics – Dust – What You Need To Know

Being regularly exposed to high levels of dust in the workplace can affect the respiratory system and can cause your workers to become ill.

In paper and tissue making and processing activities there is the potential for workers to be exposed to paper and tissue dust. Being regularly exposed to high levels of dust in a workplace can affect the respiratory system and cause your workers to become ill.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) require that you protect workers from the harmful health effects of hazardous substances in the workplace, including the effects of dust.

Exposure limits

Dust of any kind, including paper and tissue dust, can become a substance hazardous to health under COSHH when it is present at concentrations in the air equal to or greater than 10 mg/m3 (as a time-weighted average over an eight-hour period) of inhalable dust or 4 mg/m3 (as a time-weighted average over an eight-hour period) of respirable dust. Paper and tissue dust do not have a specific work exposure limit (WEL) but are covered by these trigger values.

It is recognised that a large proportion of tissue dust is made up of cellulose this has a WEL set at 10mg/m3 total inhalable dust or 4mg/m3 respirable dust.

Assessment

It is important that you assess dust levels in your workplace by doing a dust survey to identify:

  • if your workplace has a dust issue
  • individual workers likely exposure levels to dust
  • which tasks may generate high levels of dust
  • where controls may be needed to reduce exposure to an acceptable level

As part of the dust survey you may want to do static monitoring as well as personal monitoring to get a complete picture of dust levels within your workplace.

Once you have identified any dust exposure issues you then need to decide the best means of reducing dust.  Control measures can include:

  • Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) – If designed and implemented properly LEV can provide a good means of reducing dust in the workplace.  If used, you should ensure it is checked every 14 months to ensure it is working as expected.  More information relating to the design and use of LEV
  • Water Showers – Some companies have used this method of reducing dust exposure and have found it to be more effective than LEV in some situations.
  • General Dilution Ventilation – In some scenarios general dilution ventilation was sufficient to reduce exposure.
  • Cleaning down and good housekeeping – Good housekeeping and cleaning regimes can be an important tool in reducing employees exposure.  For maximum effect it is better to carryout cleaning at the end the end of the shift rather than during it.  Vacuums, sprays and damp cleaning methods are the best to stop dust being pushed into the air.  Note: the use of compressed air lines is not recommended as this can increase exposure of those carrying out the cleaning and also those working nearby.

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