Dust on construction sites and how to manage it

Stratec Ltd has over 40 years’ experience in supplying products and services to the Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction industries.

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Dust is an inevitable and challenging by-product of construction works, particularly during the drier summer months.

Because it can be harmful to the environment, a site and the people working or living close by, it is important to implement measures to reduce and control its impact.

As the weather gets warmer and ground dries out, the chances of dust forming from soil and gravel increase. This can be further aggravated by the movement of heavy plant and vehicles across a site. Dust is also created by some construction operations, such as cutting concrete, wood or even gypsum.

It can pose a huge health risk to workers, particularly dust created from construction materials, causing lung disease, disability and even death if it is breathed in regularly. Similarly, dust poses a threat to wildlife and biodiversity if it finds its way into watercourses.

A dust control plan will not only improve health, safety and cleanliness on a site, it will ensure adherence to COSHH Regulations 2002. These are designed to protect workers from exposure to construction dust and give guidance on how to assess and control the risks and review controls regularly to ensure environmental protection for both workers and wildlife.

Measures to reduce dust creation include:

  • Watering: Misting or watering areas will dampen down dust created by both dry weather conditions and construction processes, to reduce dust creation. Any watering should be carefully managed and maintained, so that the volume and timing of water used is correct and water run-off does not make its way into watercourses, which would impact biodiversity.
  • Dust binders: These solutions can be applied to surfaces, such as unsealed or unpaved roads, on a site during construction. They strengthen the surface, binding particles to make increase density, to prevent dust creation and erosion. This method must also be carefully controlled and only implemented with an understanding of how to avoid the binders contaminating groundwater.
  • Alternative materials: These will help for both dust creation from groundworks and construction processes. Where dried natural materials are creating dust, alternative surface materials, such as temporary asphalt rather than gravel, will prevent dust creation. And where dust is being created through construction processes, such as drilling, cutting or moving materials, implementing the use of alternative methods or materials may be necessary to prevent dust creation.
    Watering ground to reduce dust formation
    Figure 1 Watering ground to reduce dust formation

    Understanding the harm that dust can cause and identifying where it is being created are key to ensuring environmental protection. This includes identifying which ground conditions or works will create dust, and how much and how often it is likely to be formed.

    Ensuring staff on site are aware of the risks is also important, informing them of the steps to take to reduce dust creation and the working practices to implement to protect one another and the environment. In some cases, equipping workers with respiratory protective equipment (RPE) will be necessary, particularly where dust is created by operations with concrete or wood, to ensure staff do not suffer the effects of inhalation. However, this should never be used as a standalone measure for any type of dust, and if such protection is required, it should form part of a comprehensive dust reduction and management plan.

    Finally, be sure to regularly review the effectiveness of control measures and make changes accordingly, whether decreasing volumes of water as weather changes or adding in RPE during certain activities.

    Being aware of the dangers of dust and how it can impact your staff, site and surrounding biodiversity will ensure thorough environmental protection. Make sure that you are adhering to COSHH regulations and taking measures to reduce dust formation and migration.

Dust on construction sites