7 Things to Consider When Cleaning Dust in a Very Dusty Environment

by Matt Besley on 09-5-2017

Quarry Hazards.jpg

Managing cleaning contracts in high dust environments is one of the most challening tasks any contractor can take on.

Frought with challenges and hazards, these contracts shouldn't be treated like office cleaning contracts.  Indeed no two of these sites, be it in a quarry, woodwork shop or manufacturing plant should be treated the same.  Cleaning dust is notoriously hard.

Here are 7 elements you should consider for a clenaing contract in a dusty environment.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS ONLY PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE FROM ADVISING ON CLEANING THESE TYPES OF ENIVONMENT AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE, NOR DOES IT REPLACE THE NEED FOR TAKING YOUR OWN RISK ASSESMENTS OR FROM TAKING HEALTH AND SAFETY ADVICE ON YOUR SPECIFIC APPLICATION.

 1 - Know the Dust and the Hazards

Check the dust that is being produced in the area, to ensure that the necessary precautions can be made.  

Take particular attention to the following:

  •  If the dust is carcinogenic (has the potential to cause cancer).  Carcinogenic dusts include (but are certainly not limited) to Scilica dust, some wood dusts, leather dusts, soot etc.
  • Explosive dusts such as flour, sugar etc.  
  • Asbestos dusts

Particular caution should be made to sub-micron dusts - you can check if it is sub-micron by rubbing a small amount between your thumb and index finger.  If the dust stays in your fingerprint then it is submicron. 

If you are unsure of the particular dust type, please check - the www.hse.gov.uk website has a lot of information on the various dust types.   The HSE website will also give you recommended exposure limits to operatives (these are generally very very low).

2 - Ensure you have the Correct PPE

Once you know the dust types, you will need to do risk assesments for all the tasks, and ensure your team have all the necessary PPE to keep them safe.  If in any doubt speak with an expert on the level of protection necessary.  Often the client will have their own safety measures for their own teams, and they should be able to share this information with you.  However, it is your call and you will be responsible for your own actions if there is an issue in the future.

Ultimately the most important element of the contract to manage is the safety of your own team.  Whatever happens don't cut corners or cheap-scape on safety equipment.  Remember a claim will be much more expensive (and more importantly deadly) than saving a couple of pounds on buying the wrong masks, or not replacing PPE regularly enough.  

3 - Thoroughly Audit the Site Before you Begin and Review All the Operations

Review all the operations, and try to speak to the client about proceedures where the cleaning level is too light (i.e. not regular enough) and where aditional practices need to be introduced to reduce the airbourne dust levels.  Also assess the equipment before quoting for the contract and consult an expert to ensure you spec in equipment that is sufficient for the requirements of the job.

4 - Get the Right Vacuum Cleaner for the Job

Most dusty enviroments will not allow you to use a brush in order to reduce the airbourne dust, so getting the right vacuum cleaner for a dusty environment is very important.  Buying the incorrect vacuum could actually be putting your operators at a greater risk, or even result in having to buy different or new equipment after a short period of time.  Be prepared, getting the right kit isnt cheap, but it is absolutely essential (we cant stress this enough) and we can help you to ensure that you are covered in this regard.

There are specific regulations that relate to the filteration provided by vacuum cleaners, and explosive dusts require a whole different type of vacuum.  If in any doubt check with an expert before taking on the contract.

5 - Reduce the Airbourne Dust Levels by Wet Cleaning

Of course vacuuming is not enough, you will also need to perform regular wet cleaning.  For wet cleaning you can either use a suitable mop system, or for larger areas you will be better off with a scrubber drier.  Again every situation is different, so check before purchasing a scrubber drier to ensure it is the correct machine for the application.

Using a scrubber drier or even a mop will reduce the airbourne dust level by increasing the humidity.  

6 - Reduce the Airbourne Dust Levels by High Level Cleaning

Another important part of cleaning in a dusty environment is considering the high level cleaning requirements.  Of course ensure you have the correct PPE/risk assesments in place.  A good solution for high level cleaning is the vacuum kit that fits on to any Numatic machine - Read the Review Here.  High level dusting includes the walls, ledges and even above the door frames.  This will also help to reduce the dust level in the atmosphere.

7 - Recommend Basic Dust-Reducing Measures

Don't overlook the more basic dust-reducing measures.  These could include keeping the windows closed on the buildings, introducing entrance matting (or metal scraper grids) on the doors.  Every small change will make a big overall difference.

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