The purpose of this guidance is to provide information on controlling dust for Amherst College employees who, by nature of their work, generate, encounter or clean up dust. Inhalation of dust below a certain size is called "respirable dust" and can build up in the air spaces in the lungs and lead to lung damage. 

This guidance does not cover inhalation of asbestos fibers or lead dust. These involve specific hazards and only individuals who are trained to handle them may do so. This guidance does not address flammable or explosive dust. 


Exposure to respirable dust can be reasonably anticipated by employees in the departments of Facilities, Custodial and Grounds. To the extent feasible, exposure to dust should be prevented and if not feasible, efforts made to control the amount of dust that is released. Work activities that may result in exposure to dust may include;

  • Cutting and sanding
  • Work involving drywall
  • Mixing powdered material
  • Cutting masonry
  • Grounds work in dry conditions
  • Cleaning and maintenance in dusty locations 

Preventing and Controlling Exposure

Exposure to dust can be prevented in a number of ways. Examples of prevention include;

  • Replace powdered products with pelletized, granular or paste products. 
  • Eliminate dust by using cutting techniques instead of grinding or sawing
  • Wet methods - using wet-cutting methods to prevent particles from becoming airborne
  • HEPA Vacuum - filter collects 99.97% of dust particles >.05 microns
    • Control dust at point of generation with specialized vacuum attachments for drilling, coring, cutting, and grinding
    • Use HEPA vacuum to clean up a dusty space instead of dry sweeping
  • Central dust collection system in dedicated workshops
  • Fume extractor for welding work

Controlling exposure should be utilized if prevention of the exposure cannot be attained. Control techniques may include;

  • Minimizing the number of workers assigned to the task
  • Segregate or enclose the area where dust will be generated
  • Regulating work practices to allow for frequent cleaning
  • Providing good general ventilation

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should only be required to protect from exposure if all prevention and control measures have not adequately reduced the exposure to dust to a safe level. PPE may not be used as a substitute for good control measures.

Personal protective equipment which could be protective clothing, coveralls, or respirator protection can always be worn if the user wishes to do so and they have been trained on the use and limitations of such equipment.

*Tight fitting respirators may only be worn if the user has received all applicable fit test, medical examination, and training and dust masks may only be used if the user has reviewed and signed the online webform that can be found on the EH&S website.

More Information

Use caution and best practices while performing tasks that generate dust or are in an environment that is already dusty. If you have any questions, concerns or believe that a task which you need to perform needs a hazard assessment to evaluate exposure to dust please contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at extension #8198 or email