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A senior safety inspector has said that construction workers are at an increased risk of developing cancers later in life because they have not been protected from dust particles.


Michael McDonagh, a senior construction site inspector, said that there is often more awareness about site safety than factors that affect workers’ health. He was speaking at the launch of the Irish Health and Safety Authority (HSA) campaign to reduce workplace deaths and injuries.


An issue with dust-related cancers is that symptoms can take 20 to 30 years to show. Research has indicated that for each person killed through a construction site workplace accident, as many as 50 will die later in life through respiratory illnesses.


McDonagh said that there are steps that can be taken to minimise the inhalation of dust. Saws can be sprayed with water so that dust sticks to the blade rather than being airborne, personal protective equipment (PPE) masks can be worn and tools should have vacuum systems that extract dust.


Mark Allen of the HSA said:

“Exposure to hazardous substances in construction, usually through breathing in dust or fumes, can lead to a variety of negative health implications from minor irritation to cancer.”


Many of these are long term diseases, and Allen stressed that prevention is better than cure.


He added that making sure dust is not inhaled is the joint responsibility of industry bodies, trade unions, employers and the workers, as construction worker employees need to return home healthy and safe every day after work.

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