Whether you’re a woodworker, a DIY home renovator, or someone who simply enjoys doing odd handyman jobs, keeping your home workshop in tip-top shape is important. Isn’t it more pleasant to work if your floor, benches, machines, and tools are free of dust and wood waste? A clean and tidy workspace also protects you from toxic airborne dust particles known to cause respiratory health hazards.
Dust control is always a challenge in any workshop. Different types of dust are present in various materials you work with. Exposure to these on a daily basis could be detrimental to your health. It helps to know the risks they bring and how to protect yourself.
Types of Dust and their Health Risks
Silica dust is found in natural materials such as granite, sandstone and construction products like concrete and brick. When you cut, drill, or grind these materials, silica is released as a fine dust known as respirable crystalline silica (RPS) which, when inhaled deep into your lungs could cause damage. Extended exposure to silica dust could lead to lung cancer, silicosis, kidney disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Non-silica dust is in many construction products that do not contain or contain very little amount of silica. It is found in materials such as cement, limestone, marble, gypsum and dolomite. When you cut such materials, non-silica dust mixes with silica dust that could ultimately cause lung disease.
Wood dust is produced from various stages of wood processing (i.e. sawing, cutting, sanding, etc.). Exposure to wood dust has been known to cause asthma, dermatitis, and nasal cancer due to the natural chemicals and substances found in wood.
How to Protect Yourself from Dust Hazards
Here are some of the ways you can protect yourself from extended exposure to airborne dust and its subsequent health risks.
- Minimise dust production by using the right size building materials so you don’t need to do a lot of prep work cutting them to desired sizes. Avoid using high-powered tools that produce a lot of dust in the air. If you’re working with wood, choose alternative wood types that have similar durability, strength and visual properties but are less hazardous.
- Invest in a good dust extraction unit that can be attached directly to your power tools and machines. Many DIYers would argue that using a regular household vacuum cleaner would do the trick, but this is not effective when you’re dealing with larger quantities of waste or bigger chips and shavings from your tools. Dust extractors suck up dust directly from the source, making it easier and safer to dispose of dust and saving you clean up time.
- Use respiratory protective equipment (RPE), usually a mask, to filter contaminants in the air. There are various types of RPE available and you can select one that will provide sufficient and suitable protection.
Reducing toxic dust in your workshop is important for many reasons, paramount of which is to protect your health. Dust extractors are designed to help you efficiently remove dust, maximise the performance of your tools, and save you