Dust Toolbox Talk

This blog can be delivered to your staff as a Toolbox Talk. If you require a specific Toolbox Talk for your workplace, please feel free to get in touch.

Objective: To provide you with an awareness of the dangers of dust exposure and a reminder of our procedures and safe practices when drilling, cutting and generally being exposed to the dusty conditions that are common place on our sites. The objective will be achieved by talking through the risks and giving you examples of where things can go wrong, why they can go wrong and what we need to do in order to protect ourselves and those around us, as well as legal regulations concerning Dust exposure and giving you an opportunity to ask questions.

Target: All operatives on site.

Pie chart - UK deaths from lung diseases compared with other major disease groups, 2012

What are the dangers?

  • Eye irritation
  • Irritation of the Nose and Throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased lung efficiency and capacity
  • Developing Allergies that can lead to Occupational Asthma
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Including Bronchitis & emphysema)
  • Silicosis

Many activities on site will create airborne dust. Most of the time it will be impossible to avoid creating dust completely. Wood, stone, concrete, fillers, plasterboards are all contributors to the usual dusts we see on site.

Dust is not always an obvious hazard. The particles that do the most amount of damage are invisible to the human eye, and more serious conditions can take years to develop before symptoms start to show. Over 10000 newly diagnosed cases of lung diseases are diagnosed each week in the UK.

Long term dust exposure can lead to various diseases including Silicosis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease’s. These diseases alone are the direct cause of over 36000 deaths each year – The 5th biggest killer in the UK.

An X-Ray with shadowed areas indicate development of silicosis after prolonged dust exposure.

An X-Ray with shadowed areas indicate development of silicosis after prolonged dust exposure.

In the News:

Retired man from Newcastle fights for justice following years of Asbestos exposure:


Silica dust exposure standard in the UK:


Innovations in Dust Suppression Solutions:


What are our Risks?

A substantial amount of our work involves the potential of dust exposure, be that because of general site conditions or because the general drilling and cutting works we perform on a daily basis. How likely is it that accidental exposure will occur? We have important control measures in place to protect ourselves and others and prevent the overall likelihood of dust exposure. However, without these controls and your support of them throughout every aspect of our works, the chances of exposure remain high.

What do you need to do to make yourself safe and lower dust exposure?

factory worker operating band saw cutting machine The key step is to take care and remain alert to the potential of dust exposure around you; remember- Safety First, Safety Second.

Avoiding dust being produced whenever possible is the most effective method of minimising risk. This is the most important part of reducing our potential exposure as if we can limit dust production, we immediately reduce the risks to ourselves on site. Always utilise the engineering control of water dampening to control dust productions. This includes when “getting a bite” at the start of any drill, cut or saw works. Always utilise water dampening from the start of the process.

We can also make sure potential dust exposure is kept as low as possible by ensuring general ventilation is as good as it possibly can be. Dust extraction equipment should also be utilised wherever possible when drilling, cutting or sawing equipment, and when cleaning up dust, utilise provided vacuums instead of dry brushing.

Masks are provided to ensure we are exposed to as little dust as possible whilst conducting out works. Ensure you and those around you comply with the requirement to use these not only whilst drilling, sawing or cutting but at any time where the risk of significant dust exposure is present.

Only trained and competent operatives are authorised to conduct our usual scope of works including drilling, sawing and cutting of materials.

Remember the dust that cannot be seen by the human eye is the most dangerous. If in doubt as to the safety of the operation, STOP and do not proceed unless confirmed as safe to do so.

These control measure have been put in place with operative safety in mind. Failure to follow them will result in disciplinary action.

Max amount of Silica Dust you should be breathing per day with all control measures in place.

Silica dust size compared to a penny

What the Law Says?

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

The company must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of our employees.

Employees have a duty to take care of their own health and safety and that of others who might be affected by your actions at work. Employees must co-operate with employers are co-workers to help meet their legal requirements.

An example being complying with safe working procedures we have in place for conducting Core Drilling, Floor Sawing, and wall chasing cutting works.

building blocks spelling out riskThe Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

We are required to carry out a risk assessment of work activities and identify appropriate measures to eliminate or control these risks.

An example being risk assessment of dust exposure whilst on site – with some of the key controls given to you above. These Risk Assessments are available for you to view at any time; if you want a copy speak to your Line Manager, in addition, if you feel we have missed any significant risks or you think we can make things safer please speak up. A H&S Committee is in place where your branch representative can bring concerns to the attention of the company upper management.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002

Along with the above mentioned risk assessment, the COSHH regulations require us to assess the risks to their employees, and to implement prevention or adequate controls to minimise the exposure of employees to substances hazardous to health. An example of this would be a COSSH assessments of Silica Dust.

Not all dusts are inherently hazardous substances that fall under this regulation, and some dusts are more hazardous than others, however regulation 2 of these regulations state that any dust in high enough concentration in the air must be considered and protected against.

REMEMBER: If in doubt as to whether work is safe; STOP and do not proceed unless confirmed as safe to do so. Never Assume.

Works must only be undertaken by trained and competent operatives following Safe Systems of Work and appropriate dust protection and prevention procedures.

Report any Safety Concerns to your Line Manager or Health and Safety Advisor; your suggestions and feedback are always welcome and valued.

It should be noted that non-compliance with controls not only increases risks to individual operatives, but also to others on site and the company. With this in mind any non-compliance regarding this issue will result in disciplinary action.

If you have any questions about the contents of this Toolbox Talk, do not hesitate to contact us – our team would be happy to help you with any queries. Find more Toolbox Talks here.