Are you taking precautions against silica dust?

It’s not just asbestos dust to avoid on site.

Crystalline Silica is a material second only to Brigmanite as the most abundant mineral in the world. Whilst you are unlikely to come in contact with Brigmanite, it sits hundreds of miles under the earth’s surface, Crystalline Silica sits safely as a solid form on the earth’s surface and is a main component of sand.

The HSE are currently visiting construction sites for Silica Dust as well as engineering and paint spraying organisations to make sure adequate measures are being taken to assess and protect employees. In particular they looking for COSHH Assessments and Face Fit testing for Respiratory Protection Equipment.

The dangers of Silica

It is difficult to avoid sand in some shape or form at home and in the workplace, particularly in the construction industry. Stone, granite, cement and clay all contain sand and also in its own form, it is everywhere.

Crystalline Silica is perfectly safe and only becomes dangerous when it becomes airborne. Excessive inhalation of dust through activities such as cutting, plumbing, planing, grinding and drilling can cause serious lung disease and including bronchitis and lung cancer.

The most dangerous particles are those invisible to the naked eye. Government guidelines covered by COSHH regulations states Silica dust as a serious workplace danger, even for low exposure limits. The limit is a guide for how much of the substance an employee should be exposed to within a certain timeframe, so employers can take the appropriate steps to ensure their employees are safe. This can be done by undertaking a risk assessment specifically for Silica dust exposure to find the average daily exposure and how to reduce it.

Steps to ensure a safer working environment include not using compressed air to remove dust from clothing or dry sweeping to clear dust – instead use a vacuum or water sprays to prevent the dust from becoming airborne. Supplying the necessary PPE in the working environment and including providing respiratory protective equipment are also incredibly important for creating a safer working environment.

Ignoring the issue can have longer term health problems for employees and not dissimilar to being exposed to Asbestos. Whilst Asbestos removal is now treated as an extremely hazardous occupation Silica dust control has not had the media exposure, creating awareness and educating business owners of their responsibilities towards the dust.

To find out more about controlling the exposure of silica dust, the HSE have produced an informative guide for employees and employers.

If you would like further information or advice please get in touch on 01953 606100.