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Respirable dust, including respirable crystalline silica (RCS), is a common risk to health for construction workers.

Breathing in dust can cause a number of health conditions, including pneumoconioses (such as silicosis), lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Many controls exist to minimise the exposure to construction dusts in the workplace, including dust extraction, water suppression and personal protective equipment (PPE).

This study reports the results of a survey of construction workers in Waikato, New Zealand (n=250). Construction workers were asked about their use of dust control practices and their consideration of the risks from construction dusts.

The study had several key findings:

  • Low use of dust suppression and extraction was reported, particularly for demolition and woodwork
  • Low use of controls was reported for clean-up processes
  • High levels of respirator use were reported, but users were rarely clean shaven and had low levels of fit testing
  • The provision of health monitoring for workers was also very rare
  • Younger workers were also less likely to consider the risks to their health and less likely to use respiratory protection.
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Dusty work and use of controls among construction workers (PDF 3.1 MB)