Silicosis Health Dangers to Construction Workers
The HSE estimates that almost 600,000 workers are exposed to silica dust. And the vast majority of workers fall into the construction industry.
Silicosis is a potentially life threatening occupational disease. This is caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica dust. It is commonly produced during work including:
- Chipping, hammering and drilling of rock
- Abrasive blasting of concrete
- Sawing, hammering and drilling of concrete or masonry
- Demolition of concrete and masonry structure
- Dry sweeping or blowing of concrete, rock or sand dust
It can lead to long term health issues. This includes tuberculosis, heart disease, lung cancer, kidney disease and arthritis to name just a few.
More over, silica is the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos. Sandstone, gritstone, quartzite all contain more than 70% of silica. Further to this concrete and mortar contain between 25% and 70%
Protect Yourself and Follow The Regulations
Statistics suggest that over 2.2 million people are employed in the construction industry, so the potential scale of the issue is huge.
Initially, workers who contract silicosis may not show any symptoms. However, as silicosis progresses, there may be difficulty in breathing and other chest symptoms such as coughing. Further to this, concrete erodes over time and so does your body, and what you breathe in doesn’t always come back out.
“Construction workers are still 100 times more likely to die from a preventable occupational disease than from an accident. We also know that approximately 12,000 deaths in the industry each year are linked to exposure to dust and chemicals.”
Patrick Heath-Lay | B&CE
To ensure the best protection against silicosis, workers need to ensure respirable dust controls are in place.
Your Employers Should:
- Assess the risks to your health (Risk Assessment)
- Employers must comply with The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
- Consider substituting material with a lower RCS content
- Follow good occupational hygiene practice to achieve adequate control of exposure
- Provide workers with personal protective equipment
- Maintain all equipment used
- Provide instruction and training on using equipment properly, and inform you of potential health risks
- Where necessary measure of the dust levels in your work area
- Arrange health surveillance
- Ask whether the material being used, or dust from the work taking place, contains silica
- Follow safe working procedures, including cleaning procedures
- Wear PPE properly
- When required to wear a respirator, ensure:
– Workers wear the correct type for the job
– A face-fit test takes place for a tight-fitting respirator, to ensure it fits properly
– A clean shave for this tight fit type of respirator to work effectively
– Training takes place in regards to the use, checks and cleaning of the respirator
– Filters or disposable respirators are changed regularly
– Workers store equipment in a clean and dust-free place
– Report defects, poor fit, dirty respirators or it has an old filter