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Protect yourself from dust particles

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Dangerous chemical particles, dusts are dispersed in the air. They are formed by natural processes (rock erosion, pollen, etc.) or are the result of human activity. In industry or in the workplace in general, existing dusts are of various origins: mineral (silica, asbestos, etc), metallic (steel, lead, etc) or organic (wood, flour, leather, etc).


Risks related to dust


Explosion risk: Focus on ATEX zones

The definition of ATEX zones in the workplace requires a detailed analysis of the entire production process. The first step is to establish a list of combustible products, study their nature (solid, liquid, gas, dust) and know their physical and chemical characteristics.

Combustible dusts (flour, sugar, wood, metals, etc.) are likely to form explosive clouds with the air. For there to be a risk of explosion, the dust concentration must exceed a certain value, generally several tens of grams per cubic meter of air. Such high concentrations can be reached during common operations such as the unloading of powdered products, the cleaning of filters, etc.

Health risk

In general, dusts are considered hazardous to health.

The following are the adverse effects they can cause:

  • Respiratory discomfort (for dusts with no particular toxicity)
  • Toxic effects on the body (neurotoxicity of mercury dusts for example)
  • Lesions in the nose (rhinitis, perforations of the nasal septum, etc.)
  • Fibrogenic effects (proliferation of connective tissue in the lungs)
  • Carcinogenic effects (pulmonary for asbestos, nasal for wood, etc.)

Preventing risks

masque de protection

In general, to prevent risks from the presence of dust, it is recommended to set up a ventilation system. This will require consideration of the nature of the workstation, the means of collection, purification and rejection, air supply, etc.

To ventilate the workspace, two methods can be implemented:

  • Local ventilation: this is implemented by means of a ventilation/aspiration circuit that captures the pollutants at their source of emission, thus avoiding dust dispersion. Capture devices must be adapted to the specificities of each workshop to avoid any inefficiency of the device. Regular maintenance of the ventilation system (changing filters, cleaning, etc.) is a prerequisite for the proper functioning of the installations.


  • General ventilation: it dilutes the dust by adding fresh air and rejects the polluted air outside. This technique reduces dust concentrations but does not reduce the total quantity of particles released into the ambient air. It is recommended to use it in addition to the local ventilation to dilute and evacuate the uncaptured particles.

The level of penetration of dust into the body through the lungs depends on its size.

Opposite, you will find a table summarizing the effects of dust according to their size.

Source :

Protecting yourself from risks

To protect oneself from risks, general protective equipment, such as ventilation, remains the first means to adopt. After analysis of the risks, if these are not sufficient, then individual protection such as a respiratory mask is necessary. This individual protection, which will intervene in addition to the collective protection measures. As a Specialist, do not hesitate to contact us in order to be accompanied in the analysis of the risks of your activity!

If you are only exposed to dust:

Pour les activités légèrement poussiéreuses, il est recommandé de porter un masque respiratoire jetable. Les masques FFP (Filtering Facepiece Particles) sont particulièrement recommandés. Si l'activité est plus génératrice de poussières, il convient de porter une protection respiratoire à ventilation libre, ou bien un masque filtrant.

If you are exposed to dust AND gas:

In this case, a cartridge respirator is recommended. However, depending on your risk analysis and the gas(es) present, a free-breathing respirator or a filtering mask may be appropriate.

Information and training of employees

It is essential for the company to set up, for each employee whose workstation presents risks (asbestos, lead, wood dust, etc.), a notice, which will aim to inform the worker concerned of the risks he/she faces, and the means of prevention set up by the company to avoid them. Training sessions on dust-related risks can also be organized.

In addition, the company must pay attention to the medical follow-up of the employees.


If we look at the law, the Labour Code specifies that the company is obliged to think about and implement prevention measures, resulting from the general principles after assessing the risks faced by employees. For dusts, it is important to consider their dangerousness as well as the exposure levels of each person. The regulations also specify that there are concentration limits that must not be exceeded over a given period of time for certain chemical agents, such as dusts and/or gases.