Use of Dust Masks in Dusty Workplace Environments

Use of Dust Masks in Dusty Workplace Environments

Dust masks which are called as nuisance mask are used commonly within construction areas in order to detect dust particles. The dust masks filter the solid particles present in the air and protect the individuals from inhaling them. However, they do not protect them from the chemical or organic based fumes due to which major health issues arises in the occupational areas. This means that dust mask is used only to protect the individual from the dust that can enter into the lungs when working in the dusty environment

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The air passes through the dust mask when the individual inhales and the dust practices got trapped on the mask surface. The aim of this paper is to analyse the use of dust mask as poor occupational hygiene practice with the help of use of previous studies. Moreover, suitable dust control regime is also highlighted in the paper in order to determine the way in which this problem can be controlled.

Dust masks are used by many of the organisations operating in the working environment because they are lighter, cheaper and comfortable as compared to respirators. However, dust masks are considered as the poor occupational hygiene practice because it does not save individuals from the harmful gases and fumes (Johnson, 2015; Ahmed & Abdullah, 2012). There are different reasons for considering dust masks as the poor occupational hygiene practice in relation to dusty working environment. Lehnert et al (2012) stated that dust mask gives rise to the problem of difficulty in breathing because it forces the wearer to draw all the air through the mask with the intention to filter particles. The material of the mask is permeable and initiates resistance towards the air flow. This means that workers face the issue in breathing due to this dust mask which ultimately affects their health and work.  Moreover, according to Morishma et al Morishma et al (2014), the dust mask does not have the ability to get fit on the face of wearer depending on the face shape and size. This type of mask is considered as the one size fits all because they cannot get fit on all the faces. Moreover, dust masks do not fit right, digging against the skin of the weaver at particular points and also leaves gaps at others. Problems also takes place in the case wearer has the unusual or facial shape of the face. Therefore, based on this, dust masks are considered as the poor occupational hygiene practice within dusty working environments.

It is analysed from the study of Donaldson and Seaton (2012) that in case the working environment is dusty and warm and incorporates significant amount of labour, the effects of heat involved would be exacerbated due to use of dust mask. An insulating layer around the face of the wearer is formed due to which excess sweat and heat is trapped which makes the worker uncomfortable. This is the major reason that many of the people avoid making use of dust mask because they feel suffocated and uncomfortable. Moreover, at the time of intense heat, the passage of air reduces due to which the labour is not able to cope with the heat problems. However, Johnson (2015) argued that limited function is also the major reason behind considering dust mask as the poor occupational hygiene practice. Dust masks do not have the ability to filter out the particles that are involved in the air. They are ineffective in relation to some of the hazards such as vapours and gases. For example, if the working environment contains particles other than dust then the wearer is in danger because the dust mask cannot eliminate these from the air.

As per the perspective of Bowen (2010) the level of protection from dust mask varies from model to model. It is noticed that advanced model of dust mask has the ability to deal with the dust particles more easily in comparison to old masks. However, the cost of the dust mask depending on the model varies which becomes tough for the organisations to provide to all the employees within their cost. While on the other hand, Harris-Roberts et al (Harris-Roberts, et al., 2011) stated that communication becomes difficult due to dust mask. This is because the mask covers more than half of the face of the worker due to which the employees are not able to interact with each other viable. Wearing mask creates problem in interaction for the employees due to the fact that they are not able to convey their message effectively and they have to remove the mask every time they communicate.  

Miaskiewicz-Peska and Lebkowska (2012) stated that due to different causes the use of dust masks is considered as a poor occupational hygiene practice.  However, it is noted that most of the masks just cover the breathing area of face that create problems for the workers to protect their eyes viably. For that reason, it is imperative from the prospect of workers that they must consider this problem at the time of using dust masks for the reason that it would affect their eyes badly.  According to Zeleke et al (2011) most of the irritant gases require high quality masks in order to prevent from possible health damages that might occurs due to these gases. Moreover, it is a core duty of an employer to provide effective masks that save the workers from diverse health hazards. 

Due to the strict working conditions or environments it create problems for those workers that are often wear masks in order to perform their part effectively because continuous use of masks would definitely increase the heat burden to the greatest level (Roelofs, et al., 2011; Ahmed & Abdullah, 2012). It is found that just because of the inefficiency of masks most of the workers inhale poison gases that would lead them towards dangerous health issues. It is vital from the prospect of masks manufacturers to consider the issue of workers particularly those that are working in the risky environment for the reason that it would assist them to execute their activities without any disruption and problem (Pedersen, et al., 2014; Ahmed & Abdullah, 2012).

      

It is important for the organisations to implement suitable dust control regimes so that problem of dusty environment is controlled to utmost level. From the prospect of workers, it is imperative to take all appropriate measures at the time of performing their part particularly in a dusty environment for the reason that it would help them to remain healthy and safe (Kessler, 2014; Ahmed & Abdullah, 2012). For that reason, it is noted that these days most of the employers are quite keen to provide all sorts of resources to their workers in order to protect them from all sorts of health issues. However, they give them high quality dust masks as per the requirement of the work and environment that support the workers to protect them appropriately. Moreover, dust masks can easily utilize on those places where the amount of dust is lesser, and free from all types of toxic gases (Lehnert, et al., 2012; Johnson, 2015).

It is noticed that different dust control regimes has been introduced by the government in order to control the problem of dust in working environments such as construction. COSHH Legislation 2002 is the significant dust control regimes that are followed by organisations working in the dusty environment (Antao, et al., 2011). It is noticed that COSHH covers the activities that expose the workers to the dust. The three key areas that are covered by this regime include assessing the risks, controlling the risks and reviewing the risk. In risk assessment, the organisations are responsible to determine the consequences and causes of problems that might arise due to dusty workplace. Rengasamy et al (2010)stated that high levels of dusts are created due to work area, frequency, time, and task. For example use if equipment such as grinders, cut-off saws produces high amount of dust in less time.

This regulation states that the problems of dusty working environment can be controlled with the help of use of less powerful tools, or various materials or other methods of work. For instance, the organisations can make use of block splitter instead of cut off saw in order to control dust. They can even make use of water to damp down dust clouds as per the COSHH (Lee, et al., 2011). Another dust control regime that can be focused by the organisation to reduce the impact of dusty environment is the use of respiratory protective equipment. However, it should be ensured that RPE is suitable for the type and amount of dust. This depicts the fact that COSHH is the imperative dust control regulation that helps the organisation in dealing with the problem of dusty workplace (Hughes & Ferrett, 2015).

It is concluded that dust masks are used by the organisations to control the problem of dust in the workplace but they are regarded as the poor occupational hygiene practice. This is because they do not have the ability to deal with high level and type of dust. It does not secure the labour to utmost extent because it does not save them from harmful gases and fumes. Moreover, the COSHH of UK is the suitable dust control regulation that can be followed by the organisations to control the problem of dust. It is noted that the role of dust masks is very important from the prospect of workers that are working in the dusty and toxic environment because this is the core way through which they can protect themselves from disease to some extent

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