• Gary Clarkson

Wheezy on a Sunny afternoon

I know our industry has a focus on asbestos at the moment, which is no bad thing. But there seems to be a real lack of focus on those other things that mess up our respiratory system.

Ive just come back from town and witnessed a guy concrete cutting on the footpath. No big deal I hear you say; but the cloud of dust which he was creating reminded me of the smoke coming out of the mines of Mordor.

Silica, which is present in concrete and many other products such as concrete, masonry, bricks, rock, stone, sand and even clay.

Exposure to a form of silica dust, sometimes called respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is known to cause serious lung disease such as Silicosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and kidney disease. It is also a major contributor to the development of lung cancer.

The solutions are really simple, use wet cutting or tools which capture the dust. Set-up exclusions zones to protect others and for goodness sake, vacuum up any residual dust, don't sweep it up.

Some other nasties we need to be aware of

Synthetic mineral fibre, sometimes called man made mineral fibre is made from glass, rock, alumina & silica. It comes in a number of forms such as fibreglass, glass wool, rockwool, fire rating materials, etc. Exposure to these materials can cause skin and eye irritation as well affect the upper respiratory tract.

The International Agency for Cancer Research has classified some of these materials as a possible human carcinogen - Why take the chance, when you can prevent any possibility of developing health issues by popping on a dust mask.

Inhaling wood dust into the lungs can cause significant breathing problems and may lead to lung diseases such as occupational asthma and lung cancer. Other health effects can be cancers of the throat and nasal cavity.

The risk from wood dusts is exacerbated by the use of glues, resins and formaldehyde in custom woods as well as chemicals used to treat wood for longevity - these would be the most common in the construction sector.

Some woods cause immediate irritation to the eyes, nose and throat - just ask anyone who has ever worked with Rimu or Walnut. Some are toxic in themselves such as Yew and Laburnum - thankfully these are not used in our industry often.

Again, we need to think about dust extraction and not sweeping, but using a vacuum to get rid of the dust.

Every year at least 600-900 people die from work-related disease in New Zealand. Around 5000-6000 New Zealanders are hospitalised after being exposed to airborne contaminants at work, including silica and wood dusts.

Thats just not right.

As the people who can change the behaviours of those who work for us,

What are you prepared to do about it?

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