Worker using a jackhammer in the street and generating a large cloud of dust

How to protect yourself from dust?

Normally, dust is only a minor nuisance that we encounter in our daily lives. In the workplace, however, it can cause serious respiratory problems, especially when it is harmful or present in large quantities.

Why is dust a problem?

Dust is a real nuisance, it gets everywhere and can be dangerous to health. In order to differentiate between risks, a distinction is made between two types of dust: dangerous and annoying. Both types are harmful, but for different reasons.

Annoying dust is, as the name suggests, a source of annoyance. It can cause inflammation of the nose, throat, eyes and breathing difficulties. In the workplace, it can be produced in large quantities depending on the task you are doing, such as demolition work, drilling, shovelling or if you are using fine sand for example.

Although dust itself is not dangerous to your health, it can be dangerous if inhaled in significant amounts and create problems beyond inflammation. Even in small amounts, it remains a major concern for workers who are exposed to it on a daily basis, as it can cause many short and long-term health problems. These include:

  • Chronic asthma (flour and wood fibre dust).
  • Cancer (silica dust or asbestos).

The assessment of the risks of exposure to dust particles (lead, asbestos, wood fibres, crystalline silica, etc.), as well as the dissemination of appropriate information in terms of prevention in the workplace, is therefore essential in order to limit the dangers associated with prolonged exposure to these particles which are harmful to health.

What to do if you are working in the dust?

INRS France | Napo in... Dust at Work [Trailer]

If you work in a dusty atmosphere or create dust in your workplace, you should first analyse the type (asbestos, crystalline silica, lead, etc.) and quantity of dust your tasks generate.

Don't just focus on the dusts that are visible at first glance, as some of the most dangerous particles for your health, such as asbestos, are not visible to the naked eye, and you could easily miss them.

Protect yourself

Once you have identified the type of dust present or generated in your workplace, think about what preventive actions you can take and how you can get rid of these particles or, if this is not possible, how best to control it. In general, the use of a respiratory protection mask may be sufficient, but its use should be in addition to other safety measures.

Think about how you can manage the dust at source and reduce the amount of dust produced: this will protect everyone in the workplace, unlike a respirator which only protects the user.

Neutralize dust at the source

Many typical controls involve suppressing or reducing dust by using a different approach to the work or by purchasing products of a more appropriate size. Removing these hazardous particles using local exhaust systems or on equipment, spraying water as the dust builds up, are all solutions that can help you to protect your health and the health of professionals who may be exposed to it.