What You Can Do to Minimize Your Exposure to Dust at Work
If you believe that you are being exposed to too much dust at work, you should inform your employer of the problem right away. Your employer should work with you to find a satisfactory remedy that works for both parties. You should also demand that your employer provide free regular and thorough health checkups that are designed to ensure that each employee's respiratory health is stable, and to ensure that any illness is detected when it first arises, regardless of whether its symptoms are apparent to the inflicted individual.
Specific steps that you can take to reduce your exposure to dust at work are dependent on the nature of your work and work environment. If you work in an office environment, for example, you should routinely clean the surface of your desk and keep your work area free, or mostly free, of paper and other materials that gather dust. You also may wish to consider moving your work station from one location of a building to another, if feasible.
If there is carpet in your office, you may also request that it be regularly vacuumed (a couple of times per week is ideal) and washed, because carpet--if not properly cleaned--can quickly become a dust-rich environment. Ideally, vacuuming should be performed with a vacuum that is equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which traps almost 100% of all particulates. You may also ask your company to install an improved ventilation system that adequately removes dust allergens from the air, and ideally one that is fitted with a HEPA filter.
If you spend much time working with flour (which is the second most common source of work-related dust), follow these important recommendations:
- Avoid spilling flour and quickly clean up any spills
- Do not spread flour by hand; instead, use appropriate tools when performing this task
- Clean up flour dust by vacuum instead of brushing it with a whisk broom
- Add flour to mixers slowly to avoid raising any dust
- Mix flour and water slowly (especially at first)
If you work with or are otherwise exposed at work to natural materials such as wood, coal, dirt, rock, and pollen, you may wish to wear special clothing designed to limit dust exposure and a good-quality air mask with a filter that traps virtually all particulates, is comfortable to wear, and does not significantly impair breathing. Further, you should also consider leaving your work clothes at work and not bringing them home with you. Special washing machines that are designed to eliminate virtually all dust from clothing are commercially available (typical household machines are not adept at removing all dust). You should bring these machines to your employer's attention and request that some be purchased and made available to employees for clothes-washing purposes.
Finally, no matter what field you work in, if you feel that your work environment is too dusty, it is wise to remove yourself as much as possible from that environment. Therefore, regularly eat lunch away from work and take long walks away from the dust source during break periods.