Onsite in Winter – Dust Extraction and Ventilation

7 November 2019

It could be first fix during any time of the year. The building is just watertight, the shell of the build is up, the roof is on and external doors and windows are in place. It is time for trades to descend on the project to get that first fix under way. Construction can begin on internal walls, floors and ceilings – the project will now resemble that of the architects plans. Regardless of the size of the project, or the intended use of the building. This is the exciting bit where the plans envisaged materialise.

Dust Happens on New Construction Projects

When you look at the completed shell of a new build, just before first fix, you get lost in the scale of things. Large commercial spaces look cavernous, some domestic builds keep their full glory concealed as they are yet to fully adopt their intended shape. Some spaces look too small and the concept of size and how fixtures and fittings would look in the property – sometimes it is just unfathomable.

Creatures of comfort

We are creatures of comfort, we have seen our project materialise from vision to plan, to getting out of the ground and now we are so close, but we just can not imagine what will come of this project. If you walk through a newly completed commercial build that cavernous almost industrial pre first fix environment looks daunting. The sheer size of the space and the amount of material needed to convert it into a workable environment – needs some special trades to pull it off. Where do they start, more importantly how do they operate safely?

First fix enables the next step in the building process. Now that the walls, floors and ceilings are in place it is time for the bits and bobs such as:

  • Pipes
  • Electrics
  • Soil Pipes
  • Cable Runs
  • Telephony and Networking
  • Socket Location and Trunking
  • Stair Installation
  • Lift Construction

Timing is crucial here as one trade needs to work around another. With Plumbers, Electricians, Plasterers and Carpenters crawling over each other it is imperative to keep the site safe. Each trade has its fair share of dirty jobs that may kick up dust or cause an issue to the wider construction environment. This is where adequate knowledge and preparation for dust management is beneficial to any tight deadline onsite.

What Creates Dust?

The type of activities which can kick up dust are:

  • Cutting
  • Filling Bags or Emptying them
  • Loose Powders
  • Moving Materials in a Dumper or By Hand
  • Crushing or grading
  • Milling, Grinding, Sanding Down or similar
  • Cleaning and Maintenance Work
  • Clearing Up Spillages

The risks of dust contamination to trades during first fix of a building is first and foremost the risk to health. Just because an environment looks clear from dust, there may still be potential for respirable dust to be in the atmosphere. Overtime that can build up in workers lungs and cause a significant issue. Then there are the risks to eyes and skin. It is safe to say that dust is an issue which needs careful consideration. For full details on regulations and how (and when) dust falls in the remit of a substance hazardous to health, refer to this Government Document. http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/eh44.pdf

What to do

A blended approach of a combination of good site practice, communication, personal protective equipment (PPE only as a last resort!) and a good dose of common sense! The HSE guidelines depict a combination control measures which could include:

(a) Eliminate the use of a harmful product or substance and use a safer one.

(b) Use a safer form of the product, eg paste rather than powder.

(c) Change the process to emit less of the substance.

(d) Enclose the process so that dust does not escape.

(e) Extract dust emissions near the source.

(f) Minimise the number of workers that are at risk.

(g) Apply suitable administrative controls, such as reducing the length of time that

workers are exposed to dust.

(h) Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, coveralls and a

respirator. PPE must fit the wearer. The provision of PPE, if required, should

be in addition to the measures above, not instead of. Workers wearing PPE does not solve the dust problem and opens the situation to extended issues.

Dust Extraction and Ventilation First

Talking the wider environment into account. Dust Extraction and Control should always be the first measure for dust mitigation in a construction environment. Depending on the size of the dust problem or the dust being created depends on the type of solution. This could be an overall dust removal and filtering process, or a localised tool solution designed to vacuum dust as it is being created by a task.

Dust Solutions

The sort of solution you could use would be a 110v Fume Extractor which we supply with 6 metres of ducting from £70.00 per week (price correct at the time of publication and subject to change). Obviously, this is not the only dust extraction system available. But it gives you an idea of the kind of equipment which is available and suitable for garages and workshops. Ours customers also discover that localised machine dust extraction is possible. There is even portable wheelie bin format (vacuum) dust extraction equipment to make specific extraction tasks possible.

For more information on how to solve your dust or fume issues onsite this winter, give one of our team a call.