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How to control dust on indoor construction sites

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

The dangers of inhaling dust have long been known about, yet are we doing enough to reduce and contain construction dust on indoor building sites

Silicosis is not a new disease. After the bubonic plague in 1900, hundreds of workers were sourced to create underground tunnels to deliver our metropolitan water supply and sewerage system. This underground back breaking work was done mainly with pick axes through sandstone. Workers kept getting struck down with what was then called sewer miners disease, causing an early and excruciating death. A resultant board of enquiry in 1902 found that sewer miners disease was in fact caused from breathing in the fine dust from sandstone. The dust was silica, the disease was Silicosis.

In 1920 the NSW Workers Compensation Silicosis Act was formed which led to a committee in the 1930's. The committee established compensation funds made up of levies from all industries that generated Silica dust. The higher amount of dust that was generated would mean the higher the levy they would pay. This created a direct financial incentive to keep dust levels low.

In the 1960's Workers legislation was changed entirely to introduce a list of 25 dusts, including Silica dust, but also notably asbestos. Asbestos related diseases and claims gradually began to take dominance over all other dust diseases qualifying for compensation.

On the 9th March 2019, 36 year stone old stone mason Anthony White, passed away from silicosis. In that same year 22 year old stone mason Connor Downes was diagnosed with Silicosis making him one of the youngest to be diagnoses with the disease. A Queensland audit revealed 98 stone industry workers have Silicosis and of those cases 15 are terminal. With more than 550 workplace breaches in what health experts called a major epidemic.

The recent rise in awareness and education on Silicosis has led to the question of what can be done to reduce or eliminate these risks in the workplace. Designated cutting rooms on internal construction sites were implemented however the time wasted catching service lifts to cutting rooms for the multitude of cuts needed each day drastically increased fit out costs and was not functional.

What was needed was a portable dust containment tent easily set up as close as possible to the fit out site. Clean Air Management designed the CAM tent with this in mind. The dust containment tent was designed to be functional for tradespeople to easily make the multitude of cuts needed. As dust caused from cutting materials containing Silica rises, it is quickly extracted via the ceiling vent. The dust then passes through a 3 stage HEPA filter which collects 99.9% of particles at 0.3µm. Clean air is re-introduced back to the work site.

The dust containment tent still requires tradespeople to use dust extractors on their tools and the use of wet cutting devices however the CAM tent reduces the health risks of the tradesperson using the tent by ensuring harmful dust is not airborne for long. The risk to other workers within that internal job site is greatly reduced if not eliminated as the harmful dust is contained to within the tent and not allowed to spread though out the construction site.

Safe Work Australia recommends a hierarchy of control measures where the risk of Silica exposure cannot be eliminated in accordance with the WHS Regulations. These include

- Use local exhaust ventilation systems to remove dust at the source

- Isolate areas of the workplace where dust is generated

- Ensure regular housekeeping in dusty work areas to prevent the accumulation of dust.

Clean Air Management's dust contamination tents allow you to contain, clean and control dust on your construction site. They make regular site visits to ensure maximum air flow and replace filters when needed. Clean Air Management is a reputable company based in Sydney, proudly manufacturing in Australia allowing quality control and reliability.

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