Respiratory protection; an important part of Personal Protective Equipment in Construction Work.
In any field of construction work it is of vital importance that all employees wear the appropriate task specific P.P.E, respiratory protective equipment is one of the most important pieces of P.P.E. Whether the employee is only using hand or power tools there is still a variety of industrial sprays, dust, fumes and particulate materials, amongst other respiratory hazards on the work site.
So it is not only necessary for the sake of health consciousness to protect yourself and your workers against respiratory hazards, but it is also an obligation due to the legal Occupational Health and Safety Act.
There are gases, dusts, and toxic fumes present at every construction worksite that can make you very ill and some may even cause eventual death, some respiratory hazards such as carbon monoxide can make you unconscious or even kill you within minutes, other hazards such as asbestos can take years before they make you sick and can cause lung cancer.
There are methods such as engineering controls, for example good ventilation methods in an enclosed area, work practice controls such as using alternative cutting and grinding techniques, and administrative techniques where only the necessary workers who are performing a task are in the hazardous areas.
It is important to have a Written Safety Procedure and Risk Assessment for every task being performed that also stipulates the personal protective equipment that has to be worn for that task.
In most cases a simple dust mask will suffice but depending on the type of work and the hazardous materials other methods such as a full mask with a visor, a Welding helmet, or a respirator may be required.
Respirators and respiratory protective equipment needs to be well maintained and kept clean, and any damaged equipment must be discarded of and replaced immediately.
There are so many risks associated with breathing in harmful substances, and this is why respiratory protection can save a life, hazards in the workplace may not seem as serious to you but regular exposure to certain materials and particles can lead to chronic illnesses and can cause drastic damage to your lungs. In some cases as with extreme hazardous materials, a few short exposures can cause death.
So remember in any workplace it is not only law but of utmost importance for your and the health and safety of your employees to always wear the task specific personal protective equipment and always to follow the Written safe Work procedures and Risk assessments step by step. Take care of your own personal safety first and then that of your fellow workers.
For a full list of harmful substances you may be exposed to working in construction, then check out this article from Cornerstone Projects here.