Technology

Many industries such as mining, construction and agriculture involve the breakdown and transport of various solid materials, all of which produce large volumes of dust. All this dust poses a number of risks, even outside of the immediate worksite area, and must be controlled using dust suppression systems, the most common of which are water dust suppression systems.   

Potential risks of failing to suppress workplace dust include potentially severe health consequences as well as environmental damage and machinery damage. 

Types of Dust and their Sources

Workplace dusts are broken down into two main categories – organic and inorganic.  

Both organic and inorganic dusts carry their own risks, from respiratory infections to fibrosis, and all need to be controlled effectively with a dust suppression system in order to avoid harm to workers, the public, the environment, and even worksite machinery.  

Dust exposure is thought to have been responsible for 12,000 work-related deaths in 2018 in the UK alone. Industries with particular dust concerns are those such as mining, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and any operation that involves working with or transporting dust-causing materials.  

Health and Environmental Impacts  

Workplace dust is associated with a huge range of health concerns. Inorganic dust in particular, such as asbestos and coal, is a common cause of lung fibrosis, which causes long-term damage, breathing difficulties, and in some cases, cancer.  

Organic dusts such as compost dust or dust from animal hair and dried rat urine won’t cause fibrosis but can act as transmitters for respiratory diseases.  

In some parts of the world, dust acts as a carrier for meningitis, which causes brain damage and, when untreated, a 50% mortality rate.  

While in some cases dust can fertilise ecosystems, including marine environments, it can also impact our environment and have indirect health effects. Dust can coat the surfaces of plant leaves, rendering them unable to absorb sunlight, as well as interfering with small animals such as insects, which breathe through tiny holes in their exoskeleton.  

Dust can also cause irregular precipitation by drawing water out of clouds, and a greenhouse effect by blocking or dispersing the sun’s radiation. Ensuring you have an appropriate industrial dust suppression system in place is therefore key.  

Regulatory Compliance

Workplace operators are required by law in the UK to monitor and control hazards caused by dust, under the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) guidance 

It’s possible to easily check areas for even hard-to-see dust production with the use of a dust light, meaning there’s no excuse for non-compliance.  

Throughout 2023, inspectors from HSE have been clamping down on dust suppression in the workplace, dropping in on sites to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect workers and the environment.  

Key Considerations in Dust Suppression Solutions  

There are a number of key considerations when deciding on what dust suppression system might work best for your particular application.  

The weather and climate, for example, will affect your decision. In drier conditions, materials such as soil can turn very dusty and prone to becoming airborne, whereas in a wetter or colder environment, this may be less of a concern.  

Your choice of industrial dust suppression system will also depend on what materials you work with, as there’s a range of solutions available to suit different dusts.  

It’s also important to consider which dust suppression system would fit best with your operations, delivering the best possible results.

Mechanical Dust Suppression Solutions

Water dust suppression systems are some of the simplest and most common means of dust management. They are often extremely easy and cost-effective systems, used across a huge range of industries. Water suppression systems work by distributing a fine mist of water across the area of concern. The water then attaches itself to any dust particles, weighing them down and pulling them out of the air.

As well as water dust suppression systems, it’s sometimes possible to use physical barriers to contain, manage and then extract dust.

Chemical Dust Suppressants 

As well as water-based systems, there’s also a range of chemical dust suppression systems. These include chloride-based suppressants, organic products, bitumen emulsions, surface active agents, lignosulfonates, liquid polymers, highly refined synthetic fluids, polymer emulsions, petroleum derivatives, and mechanical methods.

Each of these is designed to suit a different need, for example lignosulfonates are used to bind road surfaces together to prevent road dust, and organic products can be used to bind soil and improve its stability.

Technological Innovations in Dust Suppression 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is leading the way in industrial innovations, and the world of dust suppression systems is no exception to its influence.

IoT systems can actively monitor and react to changing dust control situations, meaning more effective and efficient dust management and healthier, more productive workplaces.

Latest among dust suppression innovations is the use of tethered, heavy-lift drones, capable of accessing and spraying areas that are otherwise difficult to reach, and with greater efficiency than human operators.

Best Practices in Dust Suppression  

It’s important to evaluate your worksite for potential dust-related risks and manage them accordingly.  

HSE lays out risk assessment procedures as well as best practices for dust suppression in its COSHH guidelines, including information about workplace exposure limits and even specific information for different industries.  

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Dust suppression systems might seem like an expensive outlay for site operators, but the potential costs of letting dust damage the health of your employees, your equipment, and our environment are significantly greater.  

Some systems, such as water dust suppression systems, are particularly simple and cost-effective, but even more complex systems such as those using IoT innovations can bring cost-benefit improvements of their own thanks to greater capabilities and more efficient operation.  

Future Trends in Dust Suppression 

As the world of dust suppression systems advances, we’re likely to see even greater use of IoT systems, bringing increased automation and efficiency to a variety of industries.  

Additionally, emerging technologies such as dust suppression drones are likely to see rising use, as well as technological improvements including moving towards making them untethered with greater carrying capacity and battery life.  

Contact Us

Interested in how dust suppression systems could benefit you? Get in touch with Pump and Plant today using our online form, or by calling us on +44 (0)1746 766 099, or emailing us at sales@pumpandplant.co.uk. 

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