Knowledge Centre


Tackling Grain Dust Exposure


Grain dust, a byproduct of the harvesting, drying, handling, storage, and processing of barley, wheat, oats, maize, and rye, poses significant risks to those involved in the agricultural and related industries. In this blog, we'll delve into the different types of grains that generate dust, the health effects associated with exposure, the UK EH40 exposure limit, classification as a sensitiser, industries commonly affected, and crucial control measures to mitigate exposure.

Types of Grains and Dust Generation:

Various grains contribute to the generation of dust during their lifecycle. Barley, wheat, oats, maize, and rye are the primary culprits. Throughout processes such as harvesting, drying, handling, storage, and processing, these grains release dust particles into the air.

Health Effects of Grain Dust Exposure:

Exposure to grain dust can have detrimental effects on respiratory health. Individuals working in environments with elevated dust levels may experience respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Prolonged exposure may lead to more severe conditions, including chronic bronchitis and farmer's lung. It is essential to be aware of these health risks and take proactive measures to prevent long-term consequences.

UK EH40 Exposure Limit:

In the United Kingdom, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has established exposure limits to protect workers from the harmful effects of various substances. The EH40 exposure limit for inhalable dust, including grain dust, is set at 10 mg/m³ as a time-weighted average (TWA). Adhering to this limit is crucial to safeguard the health and well-being of individuals working in environments where grain dust exposure is likely.

Classification as a Sensitiser:

Grain dust is classified as a sensitiser, meaning it has the potential to cause allergic reactions in individuals with sensitivities. Sensitisation can lead to conditions like allergic rhinitis and asthma. Understanding this classification is vital for implementing effective preventive measures and ensuring the safety of workers who may be more susceptible to sensitisation.

Industries Commonly Exposed:

Several industries are at risk of grain dust exposure, including agriculture, milling, and food processing. Workers involved in these sectors, such as farmers, mill operators, and food processing personnel, face a higher likelihood of encountering grain dust during their daily activities.

Control Measures to Reduce Exposure:

Implementing robust control measures is imperative to reduce or prevent grain dust exposure. Some effective measures include:

Engineering Controls:

  • Installing dust extraction systems.
  • Implementing enclosed systems during grain processing.

Administrative Controls:

  • Rotating workers to minimize prolonged exposure.
  • Conducting regular risk assessments.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

  • Providing respiratory protection, such as dust masks.
  • Ensuring appropriate work attire to minimize skin contact.


Grain dust exposure is a significant concern in various industries, and understanding the risks associated with it is paramount. By adhering to exposure limits, recognizing its sensitising properties, and implementing robust control measures, we can create safer work environments and protect the well-being of those involved in grain-related activities in the UK.

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