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Construction Business Waste: How to Combat The Dangers of Working With Hazardous Materials

If you run a construction business, you’ll already know just how essential it is to keep your sites safe for you and your team. From removing trip hazards to putting up health and safety signage, there is a lot to consider when it comes to maintaining health and safety standards in construction. However, a major element of the task is combatting the dangers of working with hazardous materials on site. Hazardous waste must not only be risk assessed and handled with care but must also be disposed of safely and appropriately to ensure that your site complies with legal standards ISO 14001 and ISO 9001.

Using a professional waste disposal service, which specialises in hazardous waste, is the best way to ensure that workers, passers-by and the surrounding environment is protected from harm. Here at Devon Contract Waste, we’re well-versed in hazardous waste disposal and provide an unparalleled service across the South West to a range of customers, including those within the construction industry. Using our wealth of knowledge, we’ve put together this helpful guide so that construction business owners can better understand how to look out for, manage and dispose of hazardous waste on site.

How do hazardous substances become a problem on construction sites? 

Down to the vast array of building materials, heavy machinery and chemical products, there are a lot of hazardous substances that are present on construction sites. However, in order to manage this, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides practical advice in the form of its Guidance on the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, otherwise known as COSHH. Most of the dangerous substances found within the construction industry are covered by these regulations, aside from asbestos, lead and radioactive materials.

As a construction manager, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the COSHH guidelines and make yourself and your team aware of the many forms that hazardous substances can occur in. Generally, dangerous construction materials can be broken down into five main categories: 

●    Solids: including particles of solid material that get into the air such as dust, fibres, smoke and fume.

●    Liquids: including fine sprays, mists and aerosols made up of small droplets of liquid- e.g. sprayed paint.

●    Vapours: gaseous forms of a liquid or solid, e.g. solvent vapour.

●    Gases: some processes can generate gases like carbon monoxide or engine exhaust gases.

●    Micro-organisms: microscopic organisms, like bacteria, viruses and fungi can be found almost everywhere.

This variety of dangerous substances come hand-in-hand with an array of exposure routes. Workers, or anyone else who is on site, can be exposed to these dangerous materials via their lungs and airways when breathing inwards; via their skin when touching substances without protective clothing; or via their mouth when touching substances and then touching food or cigarettes without cleaning the area in between contact.

To summarise all possible hazardous substances on construction sites would be an endless task, so in this blog, we’ll mention the most prominent material – asbestos – and offer general safety advice for dealing with them.

What is asbestos and what are the dangers of asbestos removal? 

Asbestos is a hazardous mineral that naturally occurs in various fibrous materials. Such materials were popular in manufacturing from the industrial revolution onwards and were particularly prolific during the 20th century when many of the buildings here in the UK were built during the post-war rejuvenation effort. In fact, even though asbestos was banned in 1999, it is believed that about 500,000 public buildings in Britain still contain asbestos. But why is it an issue in the construction industry?

When asbestos is disturbed or damaged during a construction project, the hazardous fibres are then released in the air. If these fibres are inhaled by a construction worker or passers-by, these fibres can cause fatal and serious diseases such as pleural thickening and pleural plaque, asbestosis, Mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer.

Here in the UK, asbestos-related illnesses kill around 5,000 workers a year, with a further 20 tradespeople per week dying from past exposure. With this in mind, it goes without saying that ensuring asbestos is both handled and disposed of appropriately is imperative. Whilst HSE does offer some information about asbestos, it isn’t covered by the standard COSHH guidelines so it can be harder to know how best to deal with it.

That’s why calling in waste disposal experts is the most practical and effective option when it comes to disposing of asbestos. Materials containing asbestos can be gathered into hazardous waste drums and then collected by a waste disposal service that is experienced and qualified to dispose of it safely and legally.

How can managers and workers protect against hazardous materials such as asbestos? 

There are a number of ways that construction site managers ensure that their working environment is safe and complies with the relevant standards. Next, we explain what these are and go into more detail about hazardous waste disposal.

Knowledge of COSHH guidelines 

As with any skilled job, it’s essential that both you as a manager and your staff are trained and made knowledgeable about the hazards on site. In the COSHH guidelines, one of the most important aspects is the need for risk assessments, i.e. identifying the hazards and deciding how to prevent harm to health. As a manager, you’ll need to carry out (or appoint someone else qualified) to carry out a risk assessment on site, put together a plan of control measures and subsequently ensure that all control measures are utilised throughout the project.

Meanwhile, you’ll need to provide information, instruction and training for all of your employees, ensuring that they’re made fully aware of danger areas. For example, if you know that one part of a building has a risk of asbestos, you should never allow someone without prior knowledge and protection near.

If you put the right precautions in place, you and all of your team should be safe from harm. However, accidents can happen and it’s essential that you’re prepared for this. COSHH states that you should plan for emergencies and know how to react if a hazardous substance is leaked.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

PPE is absolutely essential on every construction site here in the UK. It is the responsibility of both you and your employees to ensure that protective clothing is worn at all times, particularly in high-risk areas. PPE includes anything and everything that protects a worker from harm, for example, safety helmets, gloves, eye goggles, safety footwear and respiratory protective equipment (RPE). RPE is particularly crucial when dealing with hazardous substances, as it protects the worker from inhaling harmful gases and fibres.

Whilst PPE is vital, it’s also important to remember that it should only be used as a last resort; essentially, all other forms of risk control should be taken first, before workers are exposed to hazards, even if they do wear specialist clothing and equipment. Your team should be given PPE free of charge, and should also be maintained and looked after properly so that it can be reused safely.

Professional waste disposal 

When it comes to disposing of hazardous waste, along with standard construction waste, it’s always a good idea to enlist the services of a professional. Whether your site produces asbestos, chemical waste or electrical waste (otherwise known as WEEE), working with a local waste disposal company will streamline your waste management processes and ensure that you’re complying with hazardous waste disposal standards.

When you partner with a reputable company, you can arrange for relevant bins and containers to be brought to your site, which, once you’ve filled them up, will be collected at a time that’s appropriate for you and your team. A hazardous waste management service can be tailored to suit your needs, enabling you to maintain professional standards and keep your site safe and clean at all times.

Devon Contract Waste: Professional waste management solutions, including hazardous waste disposal, in Exeter

For trusted hazardous waste recycling and disposal servicesin the South West, look no further than Devon Contract Waste. Our experts specialise in asbestos removal, chemical waste disposal and electrical recycling, as well as general mixed commercial waste, ensuring that your construction business is managing its waste responsibly. For us, it doesn’t matter how much waste you produce or what type of waste it is- our professional team can handle commercial waste of all shapes and sizes.

At Devon Contract Waste, we use a range of approved waste containers, including hazardous waste drums, that can be utilised in all types of working environments. Our containers are safe and compliant, and our unparalleled waste collection service will ensure that your waste is taken away safely, efficiently and at a time that suits you.

If you’re concerned about managing hazardous waste on your construction site, or you run another type of business, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. You can speak to a member of our team about your specific requirements so that we can make your waste problems disappear.

Contact us on 01392 690 193 for Exeter, 01752 429 565 for Plymouth, 01823 215 483 for Taunton or 01872 304 602 for Cornwall.

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