Air quality is compromised due to construction sites

by Benay Ozdemir
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Construction is one of the main sources that generate air pollution, particularly in dense areas where dust and debris collect in small areas.

Materials that contribute to air pollution are concrete, cement, wood, stone, sand and silica, which all form dust at construction sites. Additionally, particulates, motor vehicle emissions and smoke, odours from resins, adhesives, caulking compounds, waterproofing and sealants all contribute towards air pollution.  

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1993 states that owner-builders, builders and landscapers are accountable for air pollution as they cause it through processing, handling, moving, storing and disposing of materials on and off-site. 

How should air pollution be managed?

Each construction site has its own characteristics, but it is imperative for developers to identify air pollution sources as early as they can, in order to reduce the risk of harm. For large and complex construction activities, an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) may be required as a condition of consent. This will allow the developers to address air quality and a range of other environmental issues.

Minimise construction site air pollution

Keep the greens!

Small amounts of vegetation at a site can significantly reduce the amount of dust leaving the site. Retain as many plants and greenery as possible. 

Use water

Using water sprays with water-based surfactants allows for the suppression of airborne dust generated from stockpiles, access ways and roads during demolition and earth-moving activities. It is suggested to ensure vehicle wheels are washed before exiting the site. It also recommended keeping disturbed earth surfaces moist until vegetation cover can be re-established.

Plan work activity

In order to minimise areas of disturbed earth on site, it is recommended to plan work activity. Exhausts from generators should be located and secured in well-ventilated areas. To reduce peak emissions, apply odorous surface coatings and sealants.

Monitor

A wind sock can increase a worker’s awareness of the wind’s direction and strength. It is imperative to cease operations on dust-prone sites when emissions exceed health standards.

Protect yourself

Breathing dust particles in construction sites can pose serious health risks. To reduce the harmful impact of dust and debris it is recommended to erect physical barriers or windbreaks to minimise dust generation. Materials such as a shade cloth should be used when possible.

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