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Dusty cargoes

Typical cargoes in UK ports include grain, soya, animal foodstuffs, fishmeal, ores, coal and coke, cement, biomass, phosphate and other fertilisers.

Handling these cargoes can create large quantities of dust. In some cases, eg coal and aggregates, the dust is simply small particles of the material itself. In other cases, eg grains and pulses, the dust may include contaminants such as bacteria and fungi. Some of these substances will have specific workplace exposure limits (WELs) and may also be classified as dangerous substances.

Different dusts have different adverse effects on health, but the most important effects of dusty cargoes are on the lungs. Some of these dusts (including grain and soya) can be a cause of occupational asthma. Other dust may cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Under certain conditions the dusts given off by some cargoes may form an explosible and/or flammable mixture with air. Examples include sugar, coal, wood, grain, certain metals and many synthetic organic chemicals.

How to reduce the risks from dusty cargoes

Health risks

Exposure to dust should be avoided. If this is not possible then it should be adequately controlled. The level of control of exposure required will depend on the potential health effects of the dust.  Some ways to control exposure include:

Explosion risks

Possible control measures include:

Which laws apply?

More information

Port Skills and Safety website for guidance on:

Updated 2021-02-25