Silica Dust: The Hidden KILLER
The HSE estimate that past occupational exposure to known and probable carcinogens accounts for almost 8,000 cancer deaths each year – and the construction industry has the largest proportion of these deaths at around 3,500.
The majority are linked to asbestos and SILICA. As many as 4,000 people a year are also estimated to die from work-related Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and it is reasonable to assume construction workers form a significant proportion of them.
So, for every fatal construction accident, approximately 100 workers die from diseases, particularly of the lung, caused or made worse by their work.
When assessing controls
RPE is the last line of defence.
Always consider engineered controls that will reduce the dust at source first.
Where RPE is required, the wearer must be cleanly shaven in the area that the seal meets the face. Any facial hair must be kept neat and not interfere with the effectiveness of the filters. Each operative must also have a valid face fit test.
The Workplace Exposure limit for silica is 0.1 mg/m3 when averaged over 8 hours. Not much when you see the picture on the left!
When selecting the right tool for the job choose tools that has dust extraction built in. Where tools are not designed with on-tool dust controls, we have some universal fittings that allow a vacuum to be attached.
Stand alone Dust cubes that filter the air and site vacuums (H & M Class) are also good pieces of equipment to help control dust. Water suppression is another suitable method to suppress dust, but make sure you use adequate amounts to prevent the dust from becoming airborne.