This piece by the acting news editor of Construction News LINK echoes concerns voiced by Wembley Central residents over dust from the demolition and construction taking place in the High Road, Wembley.
A short walk from Construction News’ offices in Old Street, the refurbishment of the shop formerly titled Acme Electrical Co is well under way.
the noise emanating from inside sounds like someone has captured a
remnant of storm Brian, outside each passing breeze brings to life a
dust cloud that wafts into the street.
On the floor, plasterboard offcuts and old brick mortar are trodden into London’s pavements by commuters.
It is a scene repeated across the capital.
Almost everywhere you look London is busy building the latest version of the 2,000-year-old metropolis.
Every new development, demolition or refurbishment comes with an issue that is increasingly on the minds of politicians and the public alike: air pollution.
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has woken up to the problem and is tackling it initially with the introduction of a new T-charge for polluting vehicles in the capital.
But in calling for new government powers to tackle air pollution, the mayor also said that “non-transport sources contribute half of the deadly emissions in London” and urged a “hard-hitting plan of action”.
There’s little doubt that controlling dust is a difficult problem for any construction firm.
The fact that construction site dust has shot to the top of the political agenda – at least in London – should mean that construction firms now take note.
However, it is not only the mayor of London’s air pollution plans that should cause concern for construction bosses.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), respirable crystalline silica dust is the second-biggest killer of construction workers after asbestos.
And, in an industry that records a death rate three times higher than that of other professions including medicine, dust is a serious cause of illness.
Of course there are safety measures in place, but are they enough?
Could they be about to be made tougher? And, if as a sector, construction is aware of the risk that particle pollution has for both staff and the general public, what is the culpability for failing to act?
A number of years ago I was asked by a family to help trace the work history of their deceased father.
The man had worked on hundreds of construction sites in London between the 1930s and 1960s - including prestigious schemes such as Wembley Stadium and Broadcasting House.
Trawling through the London Metropolitan Archives as well as the back catalogues of titles such as Construction News and sister title Architect’s Journal, I was asked to look for one thing: evidence of asbestos.
The fact that the original builders who had been the deceased man’s employer had long since gone out of business did not deter the legal claim that the family was looking to file decades after the event itself.
The man had died of mesothelioma – a cancer that develops from asbestos fibres lodged in the lining of the lungs.
The research request came as part of a call for evidence to prove culpability for the illness during the man’s career.
The big question for the sector is: with the evidence of the health risks that particle pollution can cause, could there be similar legal issues in the decades to come?
Tim Clark, acting news editor, Construction News