HSE Inspectors are visiting manufacturing businesses throughout England, Scotland and Wales to monitor that employers and their workers have measures in place to prevent exposure to materials containing silica.

Dust 2Exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS), commonly known as silica, can cause irreversible lung diseases when breathed in over time. Inspectors will be checking that workers’ lung health is being protected. They will look for evidence of employers and workers knowing the risks, planning their work, and using the right controls.

What is Silica?

Silica is a natural substance found in most rocks, sand, and clay and is too fine to see with normal lighting. Silica is a component of construction materials such as bricks, tiles, concrete, and mortar. The dust is generated from these materials during many common construction tasks including cutting, drilling, grinding, and polishing.

Exposure to silica dust can cause serious health problems and in some cases may lead to an early death. By inhaling large amounts of silica dust, workers could develop the following lung diseases:

  • Silicosis: causes severe breathing problems and increases the risk of lung infections. Silicosis usually follows exposure to RCS over many years, but high exposures can cause acute silicious more quickly.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): is a group of lung diseases, including bronchitis and emphysema, resulting in severe breathlessness, prolonged coughing and chronic disability.
  • Lung Cancer: heavy and prolonged exposure to silica dust can also cause lung cancer.

Without the adequate training on safety measures related to silica, construction workers are considered one of the groups most at risk. According to the Health and Safety Executive “the number of deaths from lung cancer associated with exposure to RCS shows there are around 600 deaths per year with 450 of these occurring from exposure in the construction sector.”

There is a legal duty for employers to prevent or control workers from exposure to silica dust and workers must co-operate with employers and co-workers to help meet legal requirements. Failure to do so may result in serious implications, including workers and their families becoming ill from exposure, reimbursement of costs spent on inspections, investigations and enforcement. The HSE places enforcement notices on the Public Register and when prosecution action is taken, cases are listed on the Public Register of Convictions which could also be damaging to your company’s reputation.

For more information on the upcoming inspections visit: https://workright.campaign.gov.uk/campaigns/silica/

How We Can Help You

As one of the UK’s leading workplace Health and Safety Consultants we offer a range of services which can help you assess and control Health and Safety risks within your organisation. Using current sampling methodology and equipment we can undertake comprehensive Workplace Exposure Monitoring for industrial and commercial clients throughout the UK, that meet all current HSE guidelines. Our Workplace Exposure Monitoring can measure employee exposure as well as background levels of hazardous dusts, vapours and fumes.

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