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HSE construction blitz doubles down on respiratory risks

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will target construction site measures to protect workers’ lungs from asbestos, silica and wood dust in its latest month-long inspection campaign. 

HSE construction blitz doubles down on respiratory risks
© Mogala

During October inspectors will visit construction sites where the HSE has identified probable respiratory risks. The HSE told IOSH Magazine inspectors would be looking for evidence that construction workers know the risks, are conscious that their work may create hazardous dust and have considered how the work could affect their health and those around them.

The HSE said the sites and the activities targeted will be decided at a regional, operational, level. The findings will be reported on later this year.

“Inspectors will also be looking to see if construction workers are thinking about the job from start to finish, avoiding any disturbance of asbestos, are trying to work in different ways to avoid creating dust and are avoiding using power tools where possible,” the spokesperson added.

During the campaign, inspectors will be looking also for evidence to show that workers are keeping dust down by using the correct equipment, that the correct water damping, or dust extraction is being used to stop dust getting into the air and spreading, and that workers are donning the correct mask and clothing where it is needed.

Construction workers have a high risk of developing dust-related diseases such a lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma. More than 500 construction workers die from exposure to silica dust every year.

Peter Baker, the HSE’s chief inspector of construction, said: “Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are killed in construction accidents. Annually, work-related cancers, mainly linked to asbestos and silica, are estimated to kill 3,500 people from the industry.”


Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton is acting editor of IOSH Magazine. He is a former editor of SHP and has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner


  • A little more about the trend

    Permalink Submitted by Jim Moran on 5 October 2018 - 12:23 pm

    A little more about the trend to using on tool extraction in the form of M Class vacs would be useful.

  • HSE inspectors need to start

    Permalink Submitted by Dale Banham on 6 October 2018 - 07:44 pm

    HSE inspectors need to start looking at why any cutting is occurring on site and asked PC why the contractors are having to cut when CDM is about factory controlled production. IF CPH&S plans have been properly prepared and managed then this activity shouldn't be occurring on site. In my experience cutting occurs due to PC OD & FD directors reducing time, overloading reduced programme on site managers (Stress). On site not putting doors on plots so any minor adaption cannot be controlled by contractor performing adjustments or managing as per RAMS, requiring 3-4 trades working on top and around each other too. Too much focus as per 1980-90 on engineered safety management and not enough HSG65/CDM application on Client, FD and pressure on Principle Designer. Last 2 sites visited in London PD had failed to identify dust from design works on brickworks, PC site imposed unpractical solution when Design hazard risk should have been known and reduced at appointment by QS and OD before appointment of contractor and ensure PC Site leader site Environmental plan aligned with site activity bi products and recycling. Site management of the volume aligned with waste and site traffic plan too.

    Divide and conquer is still used by current autocratic management application.

  • Interesting article,

    Permalink Submitted by Stephen Kennedy on 21 November 2018 - 06:35 am

    Interesting article, construction workers never choose to work unsafe. Employers know they have a transient workforce, with little or no employment law protection.

    Well planned, coordinated health and safety practices cost time and money. Unless there is a genuine sea change legally, financially and culturally. The the death rates in construction will continue.

    That's the uncomfortable truth of the matter. It's cheaper, quicker and easier to have these deaths than to take the remedy.

    In 30 years I have seen no sign of any desire for genuine change. Only the appearance of it.


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