Dust pollution at the workplace: invisible danger

Since the discussion about fine dust has started, the public is aware of dust pollution. However, it’s not only in traffic where dust can become a danger to health.

Besonders auf dem Bau sind Arbeiter oft sorglos, obwohl sie mit einer großen Staubbelastung konfrontiert werden. Bild: Pixabay

Especially at construction sites, workers are often careless although they are exposed to a great amount of dust. (Picture: Pixabay)

In a variety of professions, workers and employees are exposed to dust and are not always aware of the health risk. Not only craftsmen have to work under dusty conditions, even if this profession is the most affected. However, there is also flour dust in the bakery, wood dust at the carpenter, contaminated dust in the clean-up of industrial plants. But also the dust of a toner from the office printer can become a health burden.

Dust is not always the same. It depends on from what it is made of: it determines how the dust particles look like and how far they get into the body. The impact of inhaled dust can have various effects. Larger particles, e.g. from wood dust are filtered by the nose. In case of hardwood, this can lead to nose cancer. Fine dust can get far into the lungs and accumulate there. Not only mineworkers risk getting silicosis if the safety measures aren’t sufficient. Fibrous dust like asbestos is especially malicious.

Dust prevention

In the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BauA), subordinated to the Federal Ministry of Labour, the topic of dust pollution gets special attention. In some research projects the Institute investigates how dust at workplaces is produced and what consequences it has to health. Furthermore solutions for working environments with as less dust pollution as possible are discussed. One goal is to dispense with the obligatory respiratory protection in as many professions as possible. Even if they are available, many workers refuse to wear such filter masks for comfort reasons. In addition to the consultancy of the Federal Ministry of Labour, the BauA directly addresses companies with proposed solutions for certain problem areas. Moreover, it organizes the German Occupational Safety Exhibition in Dortmund, with 200,000 visitors each year.

Read more: Occupational safety: limited accident insurance coverage at the home office

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