Construction Dust: Inspection and Enforcement Guidance
Formerly SIM 02/2009/01 and LAC61/2
This OG provides guidance on inspecting and enforcing where inadequate standards of control are found for construction dust risks. It focuses on common tasks, prioritising those with the potential for significant exposure / risk of ill-health.
Dust control is a priority topic for Construction Inspectors. This Guidance assists Inspectors in deciding on the action to take where there are inadequate measures to manage the risks.
This OG deals with respiratory risks from dusts and so does not cover dermatitis risks that can arise from construction dusts or specific substances like lead dust which have other associated health risks / control issues.
Inspectors should assess on-site dust control measures for the common construction tasks identified in this OC against the “control standards” set out in HSE construction guidance CIS36. Inspectors should give priority to minimising the risk (i.e. control) over arrangements for managing the symptoms (i.e. health surveillance) and focus particularly on those common tasks where inadequate controls can result in an extreme or substantial risk gap under the EMM. This guidance sets out the steps Inspectors should take to assess the risks and apply the EMM. It also advises on the initial enforcement expectation (IEE) according to the level of control found relative to the expected control standard.
Step 1: Determine Risk
Inspectors should consider the work activities to establish the nature of the hazard and the level of the risk present on site. The factors to consider are set out in Appendix 1. Gathering and recording this information is important for supporting any subsequent action taken.
Step 2: Dealing with urgent matters: the risk of serious ill-health
Some activities can expose workers to dust levels that are sufficient to create an extreme risk of serious ill-health. These activities are set out in Appendix 3. Inspectors should deal with these situations as a priority to ensure the extreme risk is prevented / effectively controlled (e.g. by issuing a PN).
Step 3: Dealing with other matters through the EMM
Where inadequate control is found in less urgent / serious situations, Inspectors should determine the risk gap and IEE using the Enforcement Management Model (EMM). The basis for applying the EMM to Construction Dust is explained in Appendix 2. The EMM has been used to determine the IEE for deficiencies in control for common tasks (Appendix 3). The IEE has also been determined for management arrangements (Appendix 4). Dutyholder and strategic factors should be applied as normal.
Step 4: Enforcement Action
Where enforcement is appropriate, action should be taken against the dutyholder that 'creates and owns the risk'. In many instances, this may be the (sub) contractor carrying out the task in question. COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002) is the primary legislation.
There may be other circumstances where enforcement against a Principal Contractor (PC) is appropriate. In many instances, the PC’s employees may not be directly carrying out the work in question. In these situations, COSHH cannot be used to enforce against the PC. CDM (Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007) should be used instead with reference to Section 3. Further information on the approaches to take with different dutyholders is contained in Appendix 5.
Notices should be in accordance with the EMM, Enforcement Policy Statement and the information in this document. In some cases, both a PN and IN may be served to deal with the same set of circumstances – the former to stop an extreme risk of serious personal injury and the latter to secure longer-term compliance. COSHH is the primary legislation.
Proactive prosecutions should be considered where:
- Well established control strategies are completely inadequate (e.g. no or wholly ineffective controls for kerb/ flag cutting or dry grit blasting with silica containing material).
- There has been a sustained and very significant risk to workers health (e.g. regularly doing higher risk tasks without any or wholly ineffective controls)
Note: Always discuss any enforcement on health surveillance issues with an Occupational Health Specialist Inspector before taking action. This is particularly important for silica because of issues surrounding the extent and frequency of chest x-rays.
The construction industry has high levels of ill-health. Exposure to construction dust contributes significantly to this. Construction dust is a general term used to describe the different dusts found on a construction site. There are three main types: RCS, wood dust and ‘other’ dusts.
Regularly breathing these dusts can cause diseases like lung cancer, asthma, silicosis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Many of these conditions are irreversible and can eventually be fatal; all are disabling. Construction workers have a high risk of developing them because many common tasks can create high dust levels if not adequately controlled. Over 500 construction workers annually are estimated to die prematurely from RCS exposure alone.
There are no special organisational requirements.
Inspectors should pay particular attention to:
- Information on dust contained within the health section of the Construction Website
- CIS 36: Construction Dust
- CIS 69: Controlling Construction Dust with On-Tool Extraction
- HSG 53: Respiratory Protective Equipment at Work
- FAQs on Construction Dust
- NFRC guidance on roof tile cutting
Staff should also be aware of and familiar with other relevant Operational Guidance. In particular:
- Enforcement Management Model (EMM): Application to health risks
- Enforcement Management Model (EMM): Application to hazardous substances
- SIM 03/2008/09 Silica dust – guidance on risk and enforcement
- The RPE section of the HSE website
- The woodworking section of the HSE website
Construction Sector: Health Risk Management Unit.
The appendices for this guidance are available in PDF format.