Helmets and safety shoes are a matter of course on every construction site. However, it is different when protecting one of the most sensitive human organs - the lungs. Whether working with a jackhammer or a drill, cleaning and grinding work, mixing building materials or demolishing: Respiratory protection is criminally neglected.
Most deaths from occupational diseases are related to respiratory diseases. These are caused by inhaling dust, chemical substances, gases, smoke or vapours - this is shown in the report “Safety and Health at Work”.
Approx. 85% of deaths from occupational diseases are respiratory-related
Source: Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs – report 2016
What actually is dust?
Dust is the collective name for solid particles that float in the air for a long time or settle on the ground and on surfaces within a short time. In addition to the pollutant content, the size of the dust particles also plays a decisive role in terms of causing damage to health. Depending on the grain size of the dust particles, dust can be divided into two size classes:
- Coarse dust is the term used for dust particles with an aerodynamic diameter greater than 10 µm. In the professional world it is referred to as "I-dust". That stands for “inhalable dust”. Most of the i-dust consists of stone or cement dust, coal dust or grinding dust. It reaches the bronchi via the nose and windpipe. The AGW (occupational exposure limit) for i-dust is 10 mg / m³.
- Dust particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 10 µm are called fine dust. In occupational safety, the technical term “respirable dust fraction”, abbreviated “A dust”, is also used. A-dust is so fine that it can penetrate into the smallest branches of the lungs, the alveoli (air sacs). The AGW for A dust is currently 1.25 mg / m³.
Particular dust exposure on the construction site - often underestimated
Dust is a long-running issue in the construction industry. Dust is generated during many activities, such as mixing building materials, handling dusty goods, drilling, grinding, sawing or milling, and whirling up floor materials. As a rule, this is mixed mineral dust, for example from sand, lime, gypsum, quartz, cement or concrete. During the renovation of buildings, not only mineral dust is produced, the dust often contains other dangerous components that pose significant health risks: Silicosis from quartz dust, asbestosis from asbestos dust, lung cancer from quartz and asbestos dust and nasal cancer from some types of wood dust.
In general, the smaller the dust particles, the more dangerous it is to health. Small dust particles float longer in the air and can therefore be inhaled for longer. They can also penetrate deeper into the lung tissue - ultrafine particles with a diameter of less than 0.1 µm can even into the bloodstream.
In the EU, the number of premature deaths due to poor air quality is significantly higher than the number of road fatalities. For Germany, the Federal Environment Agency estimates around 45,000 premature deaths annually that can be attributed to exposure to fine dust.
Prevention and protective measures
In general the following applies: It is best not to let dust develop. Because the dust is inevitably distributed and whirled up by vehicles, people, work equipment or work clothes. However, a lot of work create dust in the course of work. Preventive measures to avoid dust often cannot be implemented for technical and economic reasons. In this case, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is the only sensible protection. This measure is always possible and also economically viable.
According to TRGS 500 the employer is obliged to provide employees with the necessary personal protective equipment. The employees are obliged to wear this personal protective equipment. When it comes to dust protection, the respirator is first in line.
A mask is not a mask
There is an abundance of different products on the market that differ significantly not only in price but also in quality. Unfortunately, non-approved products are repeatedly offered as cheap respiratory masks. However, the required certificate is missing.
Respiratory masks are part of the complex personal protective equipment designed to protect in the event of fatal hazards. According to Directive 89/686 / EEC for personal protective equipment, respiratory masks may only be placed on the market if they have been subjected to a type test according to EN 149. Users can recognise this by a CE symbol with a four-digit code number.
The selection of suitable respiratory protection requires that a risk analysis has been carried out and that the occupational exposure limit values are known. The following table provides information on the application limits for particle-filtering respiratory protection masks.
|FFP1||4 – fold||Not against carcinogenic and radioactive substances as well as airborne biological agents of risk groups 2 and 3 and enzymes.|
|FFP2||10 – fold||Not against radioactive substances and airborne biological agents of risk group 3 and enzymes.|
|FFP3||30 – fold||Against CMR substances, radioactive substances and airborne biological agents of risk group 3 and enzymes.|
In general, the higher the protection class, the better the protection. However, the breathing resistance also increases with the protection class. We recommend that you read the manufacturer's product data sheet carefully. Because not all masks are the same. All of our respirators far exceed the legal requirements of EN 149. Equipped with a high-performance filter, the DACH respirators have a good fit and extremely low breathing resistance