How to control dust on construction sites?

top view of construction site

Construction dust refers to a variety of dust that is regularly created on building sites. It can be filthy and inconvenient, but they can also be dangerous for people’s health and have long-term consequences. Construction workers are especially vulnerable to health concerns as a result of extended exposure to high quantities of dust. 

According to CAREX (CARcinogen EXposure), a national surveillance initiative aimed at determining the number of employees exposed to cancer-related compounds in the workplace, 380 000 Canadians are exposed to silica, largely in the construction industry. The figures for asbestos, on the other hand, are 152,000 for the same industry.  As such, it is extremely important that dust control procedures and a dust control plan be implemented at construction sites in order to minimize dust

Is construction dust harmful? 

Each of the dust types below has the potential to be dangerous. Because the particles that do the greatest harm are not apparent to the naked eye and the health impacts can take years to manifest, dust is not always an evident concern. 

Here are the most common dust-related ailments that affect construction workers:

  • Lung cancer 
  • Silicosis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Hypertension and cardiovascular disease

Some lung diseases, such as severe silicosis or asthma, develop rapidly while others take a long time to develop. Dust can build up in the lungs over time, causing harm that is not always visible. Unfortunately, by the time most people realize they have a problem, the harm has already been done, and the consequences can be severe and life-altering, including permanent disability and even death. 

There are certain control measures for dust in the workplace and guidelines for controlling dust that construction sites should implement, such as wearing masks, to reduce dust-related health risks. 

Types of dust

Construction dust is a broad phrase that refers to different types of dust that can be found on construction sites. Here are the three primary types: 

Silica Dust

Silica is a naturally occurring mineral found in large concentrations in sand, sandstone, and granite. It’s also found in a lot of construction products like concrete and mortar. During many typical procedures including cutting, drilling, and grinding, silica is broken down into very fine dust also known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS). 

Wood Dust

Softwood and hardwood are the two most common types of wood used in construction. MDF and chipboard are examples of wood-based products that are commonly used. Wood dust becomes harmful and can have consequences on workers’ health when wood particles from processes such as cutting and sanding become airborne. 

General Dust

Silica is either absent or present in extremely small concentrations in a variety of construction items. Gypsum, cement, limestone, marble, and dolomite are among the most prevalent. When cutting materials like bricks, this dust is combined with silica dust. 

Tips for dust control on construction sites 

Dust Monitoring

Due to the nature of size reduction and segregation processes, blasting, transporting, grinding, and crushing of minerals are the primary producers of dust in the air

ABCDust offers a dust-monitoring service that measures PM10-2.5 dust levels generated by these operations using EPA near-reference PM10-2.5 measurement technologies and solid methodologies to provide a consistent assessment of dust levels in various environmental conditions, levels of mining production (Ton/h), and dust control measures implemented. 

Here are some of the features of our dust monitoring solution:

  • Continuous monitoring of multichannel dust levels up to 1 500 mg/m3 for various PM 10, 4, and 2.5, particles.
  • Gravimetric samples are analyzed to characterize and quantify mg/m3 dust emissions.
  • Dust emission modeling based on various parameters (winds, humidity, production, type of material, etc.)
  • Solutions for dust control are recommended (maintenance, dry, fine mist, dust collectors, additives, etc.)
  • Pre- and post-implementation solutions for improvement are assessed.
  • Report on emissions before and after the measure was adopted.
  • Installation of professional weather stations with a methodology that incorporates production variables and environmental models to determine and model dust emissions in the air. 

Mulch and Vegetation 

To protect exposed soil from wind and water erosion, mulch and vegetation can be used. Although this strategy is eco-friendly, watering your vegetation can become a headache if not properly coordinated, since it can lead to erosion issues. This approach can prevent wind erosion by up to 80% when used properly. Construction projects prefer to use hydro-seeding as a dust management approach. However, depending on where you are, seeds can be attractive to birds and wildlife, and you may lose up to half of your seeds to birds. 

Polymers and Chlorides 

Irrigation with polymers has shown that the effectiveness of this remedy ranges between 70 and 95%. Chloride irrigation has a documented effectiveness of 80%. Chlorides are less expensive but cause salinity and corrosion problems.

Chloride helps battle dust and erosion by retaining moisture for longer periods of time. The particular property of chloride aids in the control of dust and the stabilization of unpaved road surfaces, resulting in long-lasting, smooth-riding roads. 

Chlorides can achieve 70-80% dust suppression for a low cost. However, chlorides are corrosive for construction equipment and vehicles. They also increase the water salinity which is harmful for our lakes and rivers. Therefore, other options should be considered before using chlorides. 

3 best dust control measures in mines

What is the best way to minimize dust on construction sites? 

There is no one best way to stop dust that can be implemented across all construction sites. The reason for this is that each site varies in soil composition, environmental hazards, landscape design, etc. As such, some of these factors may prevent certain procedures from working efficiently.

Here are some various effective ways to prevent and minimize airborne dust on construction sites:

Dust Suppression

ABC Dust has combined DMS® high-performance dust suppression solutions and soil stabilizers with electronically controlled irrigation equipment, dust and road friction georeferenced monitoring systems, and roughness georeferenced monitoring systems. The result of which is a dust suppression system like no other.

This combination allows us to better optimise our dust suppression and soil stabilization plans and targets as well as allow our clients to lower expenses, and save time and money. Our products are used where and when they are needed, resulting in higher road productivity, sustainability, and safety.

DMS products are known for their strong dust suppression capacity, improved soil stabilisation, water conservation, shorter braking distances, and minimal maintenance costs. The following are DMS® vehicles we offer to aid in dust suppression:

  • DMS – DS 80: The DMS-DS 80® is a low-cost dust suppressor and soil stabiliser that is both ecologically benign and low in chlorides. It is compatible with a wide range of soil types and offers superior yields in silty, low-water-retention soils.
  • DMS – DS 100: DMS-DS® 100 is specially designed for dust control and soil stabilization of haul roads, industrial roads, and well-compacted surfaces to improve its overall strength and road materials agglutination. It can also be used on coal stockpiles/trains/trucks to prevent the creation of wind-borne coal dust, thus protecting the environment and saving valuable coal.

By using ABCDust’s products and services, you benefit from a dust reduction between 90 and 99 % which could help you save lives. 

Water Suppression 

Due to its low implementation cost and outstanding results, this is the most popular method to minimize dust. Depending on the weather, water should be administered three to twelve times a day, if not more. You should also be conscious of the amount of water used and avoid overwatering, which can lead to erosion issues. On site, a water tanker sprays water over the affected regions to keep dust from becoming airborne. Using the right dust control additive water consumption can be reduced by 90%, which improves work conditions safeness and productivity.

Water cannons to suppress dust

Water cannons are frequently used to minimize dust in the mining industry, in landfills as well as in the pouring and food industry. ABCDust’s DMS-cannons are particularly useful for dust control, odor control, and fire fighting in industrial processes. They can be programmed and controlled online or via remote control to enhance water and energy savings while increasing performance. DMS-cannons have sprinklers that generate drops of 25 to 100 microns and an ejection capacity of 50, 100, 150, 250 and 500 meters. They oscillate up to 340 degrees.

Wind Barriers 

Air currents and soil blowing can be controlled by a board fence, wind fence, sediment fence, or other comparable barrier. Normally, all these fences are made of wood. Wind barriers can also be made from perennial grass and existing tree stands. By stopping the wind near the ground and preventing the soil from blowing away, barriers help to avoid erosion.

Barriers must be set at intervals and at right angles to the prevailing wind currents. To regulate air currents and blown soil, solid board fences, snow fences, burlap fences, crate walls, hay bales, and other similar materials can be used.

Dust suppression solutions