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Effects of dust at work: How air pollution can damage health and your business

Dust at your industrial workplace

Dust pollution at work can cause lots of potential problems, from risking staff health and the efficiency of your business, to damaging customer relations and your reputation. Dust indoors is an issue that needs dealing with – we have the expertise to do so.

Five reasons to care about the effects of dust at work

Dust and your health

A dusty factory, warehouse or other workplace can affect your health and that of your colleagues. Extended exposure to dust at work has been linked to pneumonia, asthma and other lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Below are some of the key health risks of dust at work.

  • Skin and eye irritation
    Dust in the workplace can irritate the eyes and skin. Symptoms vary depending on what the dust is made of. In some cases dust can lead to skin ulcers and dermatitis. Certain types of dust can also cause skin cancer.
  • Asthma and breathing issues
    Certain types of dust (including those from commonly used products such as grain, flour and wood) can aggravate asthma symptoms. Several studies demonstrate the link between the dust particles PM10 and PM2.5 and respiratory issues, including asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and pneumonia.
  • Silicosis
    Silicosis is a very serious form of lung disease caused by extended exposure to silica dust. Sand and stone contain silica, which is used to make products such as glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks, concrete and artificial stone.
  • Cancer and heart disease
    There is a strong link between exposure to air pollution and your life expectancy, according to Harvard School of Public Health’s landmark Six Cities study. People exposed to dust particle air pollution over extended periods have a shorter life expectancy, largely due to increased incidences of cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.
  • Tripping and slipping
    A build-up of dust on the floor of your workplace could become a trip hazard. High levels of airborne dust could mean it’s difficult to see properly and increases the chance of an accident. Mix dust with oily deposits, and this could be a slip hazard for people and vehicles too.
  • Fire
    Did you know that dust can be a fire hazard? Dust from metal, plastic and natural materials such as sugar, flour, grain and wood, will all burn under certain conditions. The finer the dust particles, the more easily they are likely to burn.
Increased costs

The more dust you have at work, the more money you’ll have to spend on cleaning. And cleaning is not just about aesthetics. Dust can affect sensors on machinery and the efficiency of equipment over time, potentially causing downtime and decreasing productivity. The same applies to heating and cooling systems: if they become clogged up with dust, they’ll use more energy to maintain indoor temperatures.

Customer satisfaction

Customers increasingly buy products straight from the warehouse and are more likely to reject them if they are dirty. The more rejects you receive, the greater the financial cost to your company. Moreover, if word gets out that your products are not up to scratch, with bad reviews online, existing and potential customers could start looking elsewhere.

Corporate image

Your brand is hugely important, and part of that is your reputation. Potential investors, employees and customers will prefer to work with a business that has a good corporate image – as opposed to one that is known for its dirty working environment and products covered in dust.


Companies must comply with government health and safety regulations, making sure that the job and the work environment are safe and have no health risks. The regulations include rules relating to dust in the workplace. In the UK the Health and Safety Executive can insist an improvement programme, or even prosecute, if it finds a company is over the legal limit for dust.

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