Safety management in various fields is an interest of mine. The industrial field tends to have more accidents than most other types of job sites, so I’ve spent a lot of time learning about industrial accidents. How do they happen? Why do they happen? How do they affect employees, business owners, and clients? How do they impact the overall success of an industrial business? Some of the answers to these questions can be found in this blog. I started it to share the information that I’ve been collecting with people that are in my field of interest. If you work or own a business in the industrial field, knowing how to prevent accidents at work should be important to you. The information here can help you learn how to be more proactive in preventing them.
Airborne dust can be a big problem in some outdoor work environments, particularly where extensive construction activities and digging are underway. Dust is considered a pollutant in some localities, and the unrestrained release of dust into the atmosphere can violate laws concerning air purity. Even if your area does not have such regulations, it is still in the best interest of workers and the environment to keep dust under control. All workers can play a part in controlling dust, and if you are on a job site as an employee, supervisor or contractor, there are several things you can do. Below is a list of simple practices that will help make airborne dust a minimal occurrence:
Observe good driving practices
One thing that practically anyone can do within a dust-prone environment is exercise driving practices that minimize dust flareup. Keeping speeds low, such as 10 miles per hour, will keep soil settled and prevent swirling air disturbances that churn dust up into the sky. In addition, while driving, monitor your rear view and side mirrors to be sure your driving isn't creating a dust cloud behind you. If it is, slow down or stop, if necessary, and allow the dust to settle. If you find that dust is excessive, even when you are driving at a cautious speed, the use of water as described below may be necessary.
Another important driving practice is to use designated exits from the job site. Driving across unprotected soil to exit the area can whip up large clouds of dust and debris, and the few seconds saved aren't worth the cost of possible fines or other sanctions for violating dust control laws. Instead, always drive out marked, prepared gates that are equipped with dust control measures such as wheel "shakers" that vibrate wheels to remove excess soil. If you notice that your vehicle tracked dirt and dust out to the surrounding road, then take action to remove it from surfaces by sweeping by hand or by requesting vacuum sweeper services.
Use water often to dampen dusty surfaces
Another simple, but highly effective means to keep dust under control is to wet all surfaces that hold dust, such as bare soil, roads, and platforms. Water should be distributed using a spray of fine droplets; too much direct force can actually make a dust problem worse by kicking up loose particles. Likewise, don't use a fine mist, since much of it will evaporate and what remains is likely to be blown by wind, failing to settle where it is needed most. Instead, when watering, apply enough water to form a "crust" on top of the soil, but avoid using too much water, so you don't create a problem with mud or erosion.
Apply a tackifier to bare soil and other surfaces
In some areas where dust is particularly problematic, water availability may be a problem due to conservation efforts. In these situations, the use of a tackifier can help prevent dust blowing. Tackifiers are substances that form a sticky barrier across the top of dust, holding it together in the face of wind or equipment in motion. One common ingredient in commercially available tackifiers is guar gum, a plant-based product that is non-toxic to humans. Another option is to buy cornstarch-based tackifiers, which are also environmentally friendly. Regardless of what product you choose, be sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions for mixing and distributing the tackifier for best results.
Minimize disruption of landscaping
Another means of preventing dust problems is to keep landscaping intact whenever possible. Plant roots hold together soil to prevent it from fragmenting, and moisture contained inside vegetation can also keep the soil from drying out and turning to dust particles. As a result, that means you should seek to avoid digging unless it is absolutely necessary, and also keep excavation areas to a minimal size. After you finish working in an area, don't leave it barren; instead, sow grass seed to help bind the soil together once the plants sprout and develop root networks.
For more ideas on how to control dust, talk to a company specializing in road dust control.