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Fine particulate comes in all shapes and sizes. Do you know the risks?

We encounter fine particulate every single day. In the news and current affairs programmes, fine particulate is often a topic of discussion. You can’t open the newspaper or read its headlines without reading something along the lines of ‘CONCERN AS CLASSROOMS FULL OF DUST’ or ‘DUST: LETHAL TO WORKERS!’

Fine particulate comes in all shapes and sizes, even in the workplace. If you or your colleagues are exposed to (fine) particulate at work, protective measures must be in place. It’s good to know which particulate you come into contact with and what the long-term risks are.

You can often see particulate with the naked eye, but some of it is invisible or barely visible: fine particulate. The air that you work in contains particulate, which is a collection of particles. They vary in size. Fine particulate is particulate with a maximum diameter of 10 µm, also referred to as PM10. PM stands for particulate matter and the number is the maximum size of the particles – in this case, ten micrometres (one thousandth of a millimetre). Anyone who works in an industrial space or production area has to deal with particulate, fine particulate, wood dust, dry particulate and particulate composed of skin flakes, bacteria and mould. Contamination can be broadly divided into three sizes – smaller than 0.1 micrometres, smaller than PM2.5 and smaller than PM10.

Fine particulate, wood dust and dry particulate in industrial spaces
Fine particulate can occur in the workplace in numerous forms. The extent to which it is hazardous to health depends on the type of air contamination and the concentration of fine or dry particulate. Someone working in construction or woodworking will have to contend with quartz dust, which is released when sawing, milling and drilling. Quartz appears on the list of carcinogenic substances and rules apply – you can read more in the government’s occupational health and safety catalogues. Irrespective of the long-term consequences, fine particulate in workplaces, production areas and industrial spaces can also cause short-term complaints such as a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, shortness of breath and eye irritation. Itching, rashes and eczema are also common complaints amongst people working in environments in which fine or dry particulate is present.

What you can do to combat dry or fine particulate
If you work in an industrial space in which fine particulate, dry particulate or coarse particulate is released, you need to prioritise your own safety. A professional extraction device or air cleaner and good personal protective equipment are the most effective means. You should also check the occupational health and safety catalogue for the work that you carry out. It will outline the measures that you can take to guard against the risks, which might include fine particulate, industrial particulate or dry particulate. You should also keep the workplace as clean as possible and use source extraction on your tools or workbench.

Learn about the consequences of working with air contamination and hazardous substances. For further information or if you’re interested in air measurement to understand more about air contamination in your workplace, please send us an e-mail!

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