Employee safety is the heart of every business; no matter whether they work in an office, a warehouse, a retail store, a yard or any other facility. As such, most businesses take great steps to ensure that their teams are protected and safe whilst going about their everyday work. But what if there was a threat you didn’t necessarily account for?

Dust

But what damage can dust really cause?

Apart from simply looking unclean, dust can cause issues. Even if the rest of your facility is spotless, if dust has gathered on your racking and goods, it could present a bad impression to any visitors to your facility and could also result in goods being rejected for shipment. In turn, this can cost the business valuable money, assets and could also damage a company’s image.

If left to gather, dust can also present a high slipping hazard for both pedestrians and moving equipment, especially if it’s in a location that both frequent, such as a warehouse aisle. As such this can be particularly dangerous if an individual is working at height, such as in a man-up truck.

Facilities that have a lot of equipment and machinery could find that dust is an expensive menace. It can cause extensive damage by entering and abrading the moving parts. This can particularly be the case for forklifts, especially LPG and diesel trucks as the dust can contaminate the engines and oil tanks.

The thing about dust…

Dust is something that everyone sees on a daily basis, but many don’t consider that it can be hazardous to health. It gathers on every surface including;

  • Floors
  • Corners
  • On top of products
  • On and in machinery
  • On wooden pallets
  • In and on cardboard boxes

Even when a facility is kept clean, doors often have to be opened to bring in goods, or if the facility opens onto a yard.

When this happens, dust, dirt and grit can be blown inside and easily be forgotten about, especially in winter when floors can often be wet with rain or cold. This can particularly be the case for those who work in a manufacturing environment. Facilities that cut, grind and sand materials can generate fine metal and mineral dust, difficult to detect and see. Factories and plants often have a large amount of equipment and machinery in place, the frequent movement and running of which can rub and crack flooring – this can release airborne particles such as silica (which can cause serious lung damage if breathed in).

Dust can get anywhere and be caused by all manner of things, even those you wouldn’t normally consider, such as tyre and brake pads wearing down.

Dust

But what damage can dust really cause?

Apart from simply looking unclean, dust can cause issues. Even if the rest of your facility is spotless, if dust has gathered on your racking and goods, it could present a bad impression to any visitors to your facility and could also result in goods being rejected for shipment. In turn, this can cost the business valuable money, assets and could also damage a company’s image.

If left to gather, dust can also present a high slipping hazard for both pedestrians and moving equipment, especially if it’s in a location that both frequent, such as a warehouse aisle. As such this can be particularly dangerous if an individual is working at height, such as in a man-up truck.

Facilities that have a lot of equipment and machinery could find that dust is an expensive menace. It can cause extensive damage by entering and abrading the moving parts. This can particularly be the case for forklifts, especially LPG and diesel trucks as the dust can contaminate the engines and oil tanks.

The Real Danger; Employees

The human respiratory system is incredibly delicate and as such, something as small as dust could be a real problem, especially with long term exposure. This is especially the case in facilities that have a lot of every day movement as walking, equipment running and processes can cause surface dust to go airborne. Larger pieces of dust can become trapped in the internal mucus lining (nose, throat and lungs) causing minor to major irritations.

Long term exposure to dust can cause lasting damage. Not only is this detrimental to employee health, but it can also be costly for businesses if staff have to have time off. Examples of long-term damage include;

  • Bronchitis
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) This is a known killer and is one of the biggest causes of death on earth. Although an official number is hard to come by, publications suggest that over 300 million have died from COPD with many cases going undiagnosed. Workers who suffer from COPD will have difficulty breathing and as a result may become less productive. This can be costly, not just to the employee’s health, but also to the business. Employees may require time off for illness or even require hospitalisation of the condition is aggravated by colds or the flu
  • Some cancers

However, it’s also important to remember that less serious conditions can also be triggered by dust exposure. Whilst these aren’t necessarily life threatening, they can be incredibly demoralising to employees and also highly unpleasant. These conditions can include;

  • Dermatitis
  • Allergic reactions
  • Irritations of the eyes, nose and mouth
  • Staff who suffer from asthma could find that their condition can worsen or be triggered by dust
Dust

Clean warehouse, clear conscience

As mentioned, employee health should be the number one priority of any and every business. Keeping your warehouse clean can make a massive difference toward achieving this. It doesn’t mean abandoning your entire routine for a deep clean every night, instead it’s more acknowledging the problems dust can cause and taking steps to avoid dust and debris build up. Here’s a few ways you can help prevent excessive accumulation of dust;

Basic House Keeping

Simply ensuring that the floors are swept once a day can make a difference. If your business closes for the night, ensure it is done after the working day is done. That way, once the doors are closed, any build up of dirt can be dealt with and removed. If you’re dealing with particularly bad weather that day, it could be prudent to ensure that a mop and broom are kept near the entrance to deal with any obstructions or obvious slip/trip hazards.

Dust Barriers

Dust and mineral particles can be unavoidable, especially in factories and manufacturing plants. However, if there are clear areas where processes take place, such as workbenches or production lines, dust barriers could help keep the dust to that area, as opposed to spreading round the facility. This would in turn make it easier to clean and remove the dust, as it would be concentrated rather than thinly spread.

If there’s the possibility of rearranging your facility so that these processes can take place in a separate area or room, it could also be a great opportunity to lower the spreading of dust.

PPE

It might not be viable to have your employees work in full protective gear. However, it’s incredibly important that if they’re working in dust or particle heavy areas (such as if they’re sanding) that they’re supplied with the correct protective gear. These can include;

  • Masks to cover nose and mouth
  • Protective goggles

Frequent Maintenance

Regular servicing can help to ensure that your machines and equipment are kept in perfect working order. This includes clearing the machines of dust where required, limiting the damage that they have to endure and as a result, the equipment would have a longer working life.

But how do I deal with dust properly?

Removing dust is all well and good, but what’s the best way of doing so without spreading it further? Hand sweeping and dusting can take hours in larger facilities and often aren’t capable of completing a thorough job. Bringing in additional equipment could be the answer, as there are several cleaning technologies available which can enhance the cleaning experience, whilst eradicating dust. Let’s take a closer look;

Sweepers

There’s a great range of pedestrian and ride on sweepers available on today’s market. These sweepers can not only help cut down the time it takes to sweep a facility, but they can also pick up dust even layers thick from floors. With one and two brush options, it can make it simple to sweep aisles, open spaces and even outside, minimising the amount of dirt that can be brought in.

Capable of running for hours and with larger models capable of holding up to 130l of dust and debris, sweepers offer filter cleaning to ensure that dust is completely picked up as opposed to skimmed over. They can also feature an additional vacuum attachment which allows for cleaning on boxes and racking.

HEPA Filters

These specialised filters can be optionally added to all sweepers (no matter pedestrian or ride on). HEPA (or High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters trap air contaminants, of all sizes (though usually classed as small, medium and large) in a complex web of fibres.

The standard lifespan of one of these filters is between 3-5 years if used in a mostly clean environment. However, this all depends on the degree of contamination in the working environment (if it’s an incredibly dusty area, the filter won’t last as long) as well as the maintenance of the filters. The overall capacity of the filters does decrease over time as the filter becomes saturated, however the more saturated the filter becomes, the more efficient it is.