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How to create a construction dust control plan

Why is dust removal important?

As one of the most dangerous hazards associated with construction, respirable crystalline silica dust should be a key consideration for every business owner or site manager within the construction industry. The danger is that certain activities - such as blasting, drilling or grinding raw materials like concrete - can lead to the formation of respirable crystalline silica (RCS), a breathable dust that can lead to long-term lung damage and significant health problems for any workers exposed to the particulate matter. 

Fortunately, there are a variety of different construction dust control methods that can be used to minimise the risk of RCS exposure. In order to ensure the right mitigation measures are in place across all areas of a site, it's vital to create a construction dust control plan.

Why construction dust control plans matter?

In essence, these plans are the blueprint for a construction site's dust suppression and management strategies, outlining exactly what materials and processes are likely to produce respirable crystalline silica, as well as the control measures in place to protect workers. 

These plans matter for two key reasons. The first is the safety of anybody working on a particular construction site, which should be at the forefront of any construction site's safety protocols. Without an appropriate plan in place - and the right dust management procedures -  it's far more likely that employees will be exposed to hazardous materials and face long-term health risks. 

The second reason why construction dust control plans are so important is that they help a business stay on the right side of their health and safety requirements. Australia has strict standards when it comes to silica dust, and failure to stay on the right side of these with an effective plan for dust suppression can lead to fines and even legal action. 

What do construction dust control plans include?

So, if it's clear that dust control plans are critical to construction sites, the question becomes: what information do they include? This can vary from site to site, with some factoring in sediment control and erosion control in addition to the production of RCS. In general, however, there are a few key areas that dust control plans should focus on. 

The first of these is the materials that are being used on a particular job, and whether or not they contain raw silica. A few of these are brick, cement, concrete and drywall, but the list is extensive, with many of the most common raw materials used in construction having the potential to produce respirable silica dust. 

In addition to information on the materials themselves, a dust control plan should cover the techniques used to work with those materials, and whether or not this activity will produce hazardous dust. While there are a few processes that won't produce RCS, the vast majority of construction techniques will.

Lastly, and most importantly, for a dust control plan to be effective, it should outline the safety measures being taken to limit employees' RCS exposure. The best strategy for a particular site will depend on a variety of factors, including the material and techniques being used, and there are all sorts of different dust control systems available to provide a solution. It's therefore critical to have all of the relevant information in one place in order to make an informed decision on what is the best way to keep the workplace hazard-free. 

Creating a construction dust control plan

Regardless of whether you're working on roads or the demolition of old buildings, every effective construction dust control plan starts with identifying the hazardous materials that may produce RCS. When brought onto a site, each of these materials should come with a safety data sheet (SDS), which contains information on the amount of silica present, as well as any other relevant data on geological composition. 

From there - after taking the construction techniques being used into account - it's possible to determine the most effective dust control safety measures. These fall into a few key categories, the most common being: 

  • Wet Working Systems
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    Control at the source

    This is the direct removal of dust at the point of creation, ensuring RCS doesn't make it into the air at all. As one of the most effective ways of reducing risk, dust control is a popular option, utilising various types of equipment. These include specialised vacuum cleaners designed to deal with silica, as well as wet working systems that absorb dust as soon as it's produced.

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    Site management

    With a thorough dust control plan, it's possible to implement site management best practices that keep employees isolated from any areas where there's excessive RCS in the air. An example of this is the creation of exclusion zones for any workers who aren't required in silica-dense areas.

  • Respiratory Protection
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    Respiratory protection

    Lastly, the final line of defence against RCS is the use of specialised protective equipment, including respirators, goggles and overalls. These should be worn regardless of the other dust control measures in place, in order to protect against any oversights that may otherwise lead to RCS exposure.

Ideally, a safe construction site will utilise a combination of these techniques to ensure employee safety, but that all starts with effectively identifying the hazards present via a dust control plan. For more information on reducing the risks associated with silica, get in touch today

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