Exposure to Silica

May 13, 2019
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The HSE recently published the results of a bench marking survey looking at exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in the brick manufacturing and stone working industries.

Silica is naturally found in most rocks, sand and clay and in products such as bricks and concrete. Some of the dust created when working with this material may be fine enough to reach deep inside the lungs, this is known as respirable crystalline silica, this can be harmful to health and significant exposure can cause silicosis and lung cancer. To minimise the harm that may be caused limits are set for workplace exposure to RCS.

The survey looked at 20 sites (10 from each sector) and the effectiveness of the control measures that were in place. The survey found that in both industries exposure limits were exceeded in 20% of cases.

Controls used included a mixture of respiratory protective equipment such as face masks, local exhaust ventilation systems, water suppression and segregation of the work. The suggestion is that a variety of measures will be required to adequately control exposure to RCS. Full details of the survey can be found at: https://academic.oup.com/annweh/article/63/2/184/5281173.

Following the publication of this survey the HSE have published updated guidance on how to control exposure to RCS for both the brick and tile and ceramics industries.

Guidance for the ceramics industries covers areas such as glaze and colour preparation, casting, dry fettling, kiln loading and unloading and spraying glazes and colours. This can be found on the HSE’s website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/essentials/direct-advice/ceramics-silica.htm.

Guidance for the brick and tile industries covers topics including clay milling, sand moving and screening, facing green bricks with sand, moving green and fired bricks, manual dehacking and batching and ventilated vehicle cabs. This can be found on the HSE’s website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/essentials/direct-advice/brick-tile-silica.htm.

Guidance on controlling exposure to RCS can also be found for the construction, manufacturing, quarrying, stoneworking and slate industries on the HSE’s website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/essentials/direct-advice/silica.htm.

Please speak to your normal PIB Risk management contact or get in touch using [email protected] if you have any questions about controlling exposure to hazardous substances at work.