Reducing quartz exposure in the construction industry
Occupational hygienist Erik van Deurssen has developed a multidimensional intervention to reduce quartz exposure in the construction industry. The goal of this intervention is to increase the use of technical control measures and to change worker behaviour and organisational factors. The intervention has led to reduction in quartz exposure and Van Deurssen has received the Thomas Bedford Memorial Prize from the BHOS for his PhD-research in this area.
Setting and problem
All construction workers are exposed to dust. Quartz dust exposure is especially bad for people’s health, because it irreparably damages people’s lung and may lead to chronic respiratory diseases or cancer. Many interventions in this area focus on technical solutions for the reduction or prevention of quartz exposure. These interventions do not take worker behaviour or organisational factors into account. However, it is known that these aspects largely influence the efficacy of technical control measures. Therefore, a multidimensional intervention that takes technical, behavioural and organisational factors into account is needed.
The intervention consists of several face to face sessions:
- Plenary sessions for construction workers and managers to inform them about the health risks related to quartz exposure and to tackle the main obstacles in using technical control measures.
- A session for construction workers at the work site to teach them how to use certain technical control measures in practice.
- A session for managers to inform them about the newest technical control measures.
The intervention was successful: positive behavioural changes were observed, technical control measures were used more often and, consequently, quartz exposure was reduced. The intervention was positively evaluated by the users. Suggestions for improvement are to organise one single, mandatory session instead of several sessions and to use (audio)visual techniques as much as possible for information transfer, as construction workers are generally lower educated.
- Interventions focusing on reduction of carcinogen exposure are most effective if they do not only focus on the technical side but also on behavioural and organisational factors, as they have an important influence on the efficacy of the use technical control measures.
In teaching workers about the health impact of carcinogen exposure, using (audio)visual techniques is important because of the generally lower education of the workers.