Refreshed HSE guidance on Silicosis
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently refreshed its guidance on silica – particularly for brick and tile manufacturing, stonework and foundries – ahead of a campaign of health and safety inspections focused on the sector.
The dangers of silica
Prolonged exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) – present in gravel, stone, granite and other common construction materials – cam lead to life altering respiratory conditions such as silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.
When silica containing materials are tampered with for manufacturing (sawn, cut, ground, shaved etc.) tiny particles are often released into the air. While these sometimes are visible, such as a cloud of dust, these can be invisible. When inhaled by a person, RCS particles settle in the lining of their lungs. Initially this can cause discomfort, shortness of breath or coughing. But, over time, prolonged exposure can hinder a person’s permanent ability to breathe and can cause irreversible, often fatal, damage to the lungs.
Starting in October, these inspections will focus on businesses where materials containing silica are used, to ensure that sufficient control measures are in place to protect their workers’ respiratory health. This is to include brick and tile manufacturers, foundries, stone working sites and manufacturers of kitchen worktops across the UK.
Silica dust is a particulate matter which can be protected against through the use of respiratory protective equipment – RPE. In order for RPE to work effectively it must be both suitable and adequate. That is to say that it suitably fits the wearer, and adequately protects them against the hazards in the environment.
As a particulate, P3 filters offer suitable protection against silica dust – however, you will need RPE that fits and is appropriate for the environment. A face fit test should be undertaken to ensure the chosen respirator fits the wearer and thought should be given as to whether any other protection (such as eyes, or face) is required.
Please note – tight-fitting RPE is not suitable for people with facial hair.
For more information on RPE, visit our blog.
For more information on the HSE, please visit their website.