Silica dust is the second highest cause of deaths due to occupational cancer; over 1,000 people in the UK die each year from exposure to it. Those who work with materials such as stone, rock, concrete, industrial sand, bricks and mortar inhale the microscopic silica dust particles deep into their lungs with potentially fatal consequences.
Continuous exposure causes chronic illnesses, including silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lung cancer. According to The International Agency for Research on Cancer, 'Crystalline silica in the form of quartz or cristobalite dust is known to be carcinogenic.'
The initial assessment of the risk of exposure to silica dust addresses the type of task, the work environment, the time involved and the frequency of the task. To prevent or minimise dust, site managers can use silica-free abrasives, less powerful machinery and alternative methods of work.
Effective measures to protect workers include extraction and filtration units, respiratory protective equipment and the use of water to dampen down the work area. An expert assessment facilitates a tailored solution.
For more information on how to manage silica dust to protect workers' health, download our full white paper.
It is the responsibility of employers to remove, isolate or reduce silica dust in the workplace. Employees need to be adequately informed on the health risks of dust and trained to maintain dust controls and equipment.