National Sales Manager, Festool UK
Health and safety within the workplace is of paramount importance in protecting personnel.
Employees expect to be able to operate in a safe and healthy environment when they go to work.
But some employment sectors have differing perceptions of risk, while other occupations are more hazardous simply because of the nature of the work.
That means that it is even more important for companies to ensure that they create a safe and healthy working environment with relevant protective equipment, and also comply with all health and safety regulations.
Dust is a common hazard, and depending on the cause of the dust, the substances thrown up into the air can range from mildly irritating to toxic and dangerous to health.
Health and safety
Having dust masks and protective glasses can offer protection, but ventilation and dust extraction systems are also a pivotal part of the process.
According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), health and safety approaches in the workplace are “often inadequate” and place staff in smaller firms at a higher risk of work-related accidents and illnesses.
The consequences of an incident can be far-reaching, even bringing the entire business to a standstill.
Occupational health and safety expert, Alexander Hoste, regularly visits businesses and is acutely aware of the importance of workforce wellbeing.
“Every pound invested in health and safety in the workplace pays off double. In small companies in particular, injuries and illnesses can represent existential threats,” he says.
Health and safety in the workplace should be simply a matter of course, so much a part of the standard operating procedure that you don’t even have to think about it.
Rolf Stelzle, who owns a painting company that employs 10 people, says: “Having healthy employees is the basic prerequisite for running a healthy business. That’s why health and safety in the workplace should be simply a matter of course, so much a part of the standard operating procedure that you don’t even have to think about it.
“Our employees greatly value healthy work. They don’t sand without dust masks. They never leave the building without a dust extraction system. They always strap up when working at dangerous heights. And they are proactive about talking to me when they need something.”
Workers in the construction industry are one of the groups most at risk, but there has to be a constant awareness of the dangers of the environment they work in.
But as Stelzle explains, the rules and regulations that are in place are about the safety of the people.
“My employees are my most important asset,” he adds. “Without them, I would have to shut down operations. That’s why it’s important to me that they work healthy and stay healthy in the long term.”
As a hazard, dust can create numerous problems: it affects visibility, clogs tools and machinery, but can also be a serious health hazard for workers if it gets into an individual’s airway.
Philipp Stahl is a master painter, who works as an application technician at Festool, is looking for ways the company can help painters improve the health, safety and cleanliness of their work as best as possible.
An important element, he says, is a high-quality dust extraction system that sucks up the dust and stores it until it can be safely disposed of.
Festool offer a range of dust-extractors for building sites or wood dust from sanding with the equipment designed to work alongside power tools.
It emphasises the importance of choosing a dust extractor that is appropriate for the material being worked on and ensuring that it is operating correctly, such as seeing that the connection between the hose and the extractor is secure and has the correct filtration for the type of dust involved.
The correct equipment helps ensure a healthy workforce, cuts the risk of accident, and reduces staff sickness as a result of injury.