The wind blowing over loose topsoil or sand and vehicles travelling at high speeds can generate dust, causing reduced visibility and significant safety risks for drivers, passengers and equipment. Over time, dust can also clog air filters and reduce safe oxygen levels for vehicle occupants.
There are numerous occupational safety, health and environmental hazards and associated risks pertaining to or as a result of dust for drivers and operators of vehicles. Several controls have been developed and implemented over the years to mitigate exposure and limit the effect thereof on drivers, and occupants and to safeguard equipment when in use.
The main risk is impeded visibility and a significant reduction in safety levels. In severe cases, it can lead to deadly conditions for all road users. Apart from dust, loose gravel and pebbles also pose a risk. Flying debris is a hazard, especially if you don’t want to lose a headlight at night or a windshield. Typical conditions are most prevalent in isolated areas. In the workplace, it is common at places like mining pits.
When operating any vehicle in too much dust or sand, air filters can become clogged and result in overheated engines and air starvation. Over a prolonged period, dust can clog cabin filters and reduce safe oxygen levels for vehicle inhabitants.
The best prevention is not to drive in dusty conditions, but if there is no alternative, do not open the windows of the car or cabin whilst driving or operating a vehicle, as dust can be very harmful to your health. The best is to keep it closed and if air-conditioned set it at low speed.
Some mitigation measures to improve your safety and health
The following were found to be very useful:
- Via engineering control – regular maintenance of vehicles – greasing, unclogging of air or cabin filters, replacing broken windscreens, head or fog lights and indicators.
- Reduce speed – reduction by 50% can result in a 65% of dust reduction for others and improve vehicle handling.
- Drive as far as possible on the left-hand side of the road and especially around bends and curves (left-hand driving countries).
- Close all windows and turn your vehicle’s ventilation system to recirculated air.
- Drive with lights on to improve your visibility and use hazard lights in hazardous conditions.
Dust control measures that can be applied to assist in the reduction of dust:
- Watering of roads – depending on atmospheric conditions, its effectiveness may last for a very short period. SA being an arid country is also problematic.
- Gravelling of roads – will lessen the dust but increase the risk of flying stones. Mixing aggregated stone with a binding medium can prolong the life thereof.
- Increase soil moisture content by adding deliquescent salts (i.e. calcium chloride or magnesium chloride). It increases the moisture level by attracting water. This can become hazardous during rain though.
- Binding of road surface with petroleum-based material i.e. asphalt. Organic non-petroleum dust suppressants such as diluted molasses, are found at sugar mills, etc.
- Paving or use of impermeable material is very costly, but highly effective. Golden highway in SA comes to mind.
Visit Arrive Alive for more information and road safety tips.
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