Working with Dust

According to HSE they estimate that the UK has over 37,000 individuals who suffer from some form of breathing or lung condition. Added to this is the statistic that around 8,000 people die every year as a result of occupational caused cancer. There is no need to take any risk, protect yourself with simple but effective forms of personal protection.

Many materials used within the construction industry, and including some DIY environments, contain quartz in the form of sand. With the sand industry increasing its reach, its wide ranging uses have become a growing concern. Sand itself is generally a non-toxic substance, but when used in processes such as sandblasting the silica that is added can cause severe health problems if incorrect respiratory gear is worn when the particles enter the air.

As a result the EU and its member states have produced a set of exposure limits for various types of dust with laws being introduced to protect the operator using the equipment from potential harm.

Hire Station is fully committed to helping deliver effective service and solutions that will meet your requirements and help improve your productivity in the workplace. We offer a broad range of products that have integrated dust collection facilities. We also offer compact battery powered dust collection systems that give you the ability to work safely without suffering the loss of freedom that cordless technology offers.

Due to the current legislation regarding the dangers of dust it is no longer something that can be simply swept away. It is an ever present danger and health risk to anyone within the construction sector or an environment in which dust can be made airborne, such as home improvements or vehicle body work. This is why employers are urged to review the process in which employers work and the risks of their jobs. It is then their responsibility to prevent injuries and accidents.

Dust is created by a wide range of processes in both construction and workshop environments including, but not limited to, drilling, cutting, sanding, breaking and many more.

Something to think about when performing such tasks is that some processes that create dust can produce over 15kg of inhalable dust per hour, enough to fill 2 average family car’s fuel tanks in a working day.

Conditional to several aspects including:

  • The type of dust you are being exposed to
  • The concentration of the dust
  • The location of the process e.g. outside or within a confined space
  • And your exposure time

The inhalation of dust may eventually lead to serious, life threatening conditions including cancer. Another downside to dust is that the risks are not exclusive to the operator but also surrounding workers. The risk is further amplified if the proper safety precautions haven’t been followed.

Here are some simple steps to help in assessing the work environment to minimise the effects of dust:

  • Are there any other methods I could use to cut my material? Can I use a different material all together for my project?
  • Do I have the correct suppression or extraction system for the process? E.g. when using a disk cutter a water suppression system is best
  • Is the dust suppression/extraction system functioning correctly and optimally?
  • Have you been issued / have you purchased the correct type of RPE? (Respiratory Protective Equipment) Is it clean? Does it fit properly? etc
  • How will you remove the dust that has been produced from your working area? A vacuum system or wash down facilities?

DON’T FORGET: Not only is it simple but it is also cheaper to prevent dust and other respiratory and visual irritants from becoming airborne rather than attempting to control the substances once it has become airborne. Once the dust particles are in the air the dangers are amplified due to the two particles that are created below:

  1. Inhalable dust: these are the larger, visible particles that we breathe in and are usually stopped in the nasal cavity and upper respiratory tract or flushed out by the body’s immune system in the form of mucus.
  2. Respirable dust: these are the finer particles that are invisible to the naked eye that can penetrate much deeper into the lungs causing scarring which may eventually lead to cancer. An example would be Respirable Crystalline Silica, commonly referred to as RCS which scars the lung tissue and leads to silicosis

It is the smaller particles that cause the more serious damage and because they are invisible to the naked eye we often think there is nothing there.


The most common applications that our equipment can be used for as a dust extractor include:

  • Drilling
  • Breaking
  • Cutting
  • Grinding
  • Chasing
  • Sanding

The most common materials that our dust extraction equipment is used for include:

  • Brick
  • Masonry
  • Tile
  • Concrete
  • Wood
  • Plastic composites
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • Flint
  • Quartz
  • Medium hazardous materials
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The legal requirement

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) employers must control risks to employees’ health arising from work activities, meaning that they need to ensure exposure to dust is kept well below the Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs), which are as followed:

  • Inhalable dust: 10 mg/m3
  • Respirable dust: 4 mg/m3
  • Silica (quartz in respirable dust): 0.1 mg/m3

The HSE has legislated that the minimum legal requirement for the capture of Silica and wood dust is an M Class extraction unit coupled with the correct on-tool extraction fitting, together with the correct filtration and collection bags. 

If you are seen to be non-compliant within your work place the HSE will issue a "fee for intervention" which currently stands at £124 per hour.

How can you protect yourself?

When working in environments where dust is created you are exposing yourself to potentially two different forms of dust:

  • Organic dust – this originates from plants and animals. This type of dust is mainly experienced when doing activities such as gardening, agricultural work or handling grain. Organic dust can contain components such as fungi and bacteria such as Q fever. Organic chemicals can also produce dust from substances such as pesticides.
  • Inorganic dust – this is produced via materials such a metal, coal and asbestos. Inorganic dusts are created during processes such as grinding, the installation or removal of insulation and the procurement of fossil fuels.

When breathing this dust in your body has several defence mechanisms designed to prevent the foreign bodies from doing harm with the lungs being putting up the strongest defence. An example would be during a working lifetime some miners may inhale up to 1000g of dust yet upon autopsy only 40g remained; a 96% removal rate.

At Brandon Hire station we can provide you with several methods to help maximise your protection when working with dust. We do this via 2 distinct methods:

  • Active equipment
  • Pre-emptive PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)

Below you can see a range of both hire (red blocks) and sales (grey blocks) equipment you can use to help keep your exposure to dust as low as possible. At Brandon Hire station we take health and safety very seriously and so we have decided to use dust extraction and vacuum units to neutralise the threat from dust. With our cut off saws we also provide what is known as a ‘dust suppression unit’. His uses a fine mist to prevent the dust from becoming too airborne, as explained in the infographic above.