Silica dust can present a number of health risk if exposure isn’t controlled. In this blog, we’ve looking to what silica dust is, how it’s produced, the effects and how best to control exposures to it. You can learn more about the engineering control solutions we have available on our Dust Extraction page.
What is Silica Dust?
Silica is a natural substance that’s found in variable amounts in most rocks, sands and clays. An example of this is sandstone, which contains more than 70% silica, whereas granite might contain 15-30%. Silica is commonly found in the construction industry as a major constituent of construction materials such as bricks, tiles, concrete and mortar.
How Is Silica Dust Produced In the Construction Industry?
Construction workers are often exposed to silica dust throughout a typical working day. Tasks in the construction industry that involve silica dust include: cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing can create dust containing crystalline silica particles.
Health Effects From Silica Dust
Silica dust particles (the fine dust is known as Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS)) can be fine enough to penetrate deep into the lungs. RCS is too fine to be seen by the human eye; so, inhalation is inevitable whilst working in these dusty environments. Research has shown that proven long-term exposure to airborne contaminants can cause occupational diseases. Small amounts of silica can be hazardous if inhaled, causing asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), increase the risk of lung disease or lung cancer.
According to the HSE’s latest data, published in the Health and Safety at Work: Summary Statistics for Great Britain 2020, it is estimated that there are 13,000 deaths each year estimated to be linked to past exposure at work, primarily to chemicals or dust, whilst there are also 12,000 lung disease deaths each year estimated to be linked to past exposures at work, 33% are attributed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
How To Control Silica Dust?
The HSE’s INDG463 – Control of Exposure to Silica Dust: A Guide for Employees guidance recommends controlling dust exposure with engineering controls, such as local exhaust ventilation (LEV).
LEV systems (for example, a dust extractor) can control crystalline silica dust to capture airborne contaminants at-source. The benefit of providing it at-source is to prevent RCS from escaping into the worker’s breathing zone and the broader working environment. This will reduce the risk of crystalline silica exposure and workers’ inhalation. Auto Extract Systems offer comprehensive silica dust extraction systems to help make your working environment safe and dust-free. Find out more about at-source dust capture, extraction, filtration and the dangers of working with silica dust.
Finally, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should also be worn to help reduce the risk of RCS inhalation until outside of the working area.
Workplace Exposure Limits
Control measures must be effective in keeping exposure below the Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) (0.1 mg/m3 respirable dust, averaged over 8 hours). Find out more about the WELs in our ‘Ultimate Guide: What are the Latest EH40 Workplace Exposure Limits?‘ article.
Why Choose Auto Extract Systems?
Celebrating 20 Years In BusinessAuto Extract Systems is the UK’s leading LEV company. Over the last 20 years, we’ve helped thousands of businesses create pollution-free workplaces, and avoid a costly fee for intervention fines.
We are experts in all things LEV, we can help your business become COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulation 2002 compliant with a tailored LEV solution. We provide comprehensive design, installation, maintenance and certification services across a range of industry sectors. Find out more about us here.
Request your FREE LEV Site Assessment Today!
We’ll call to arrange a convenient time and date to visit your site. We’ll analyse your working processes, assess the substances used and the contaminants generated. We’ll work out how best to control the dust and fume in a way that’s in line with your COSHH risk assessment. Next, we’ll design you a comprehensive LEV system that adheres to HSG258 guidance and send this you to via email.
We’ll do all this to ensure we fully understand your dust and fume extraction requirements and help you to provide a pollution-free workplace!
This is an amazing service we do for thousands of businesses throughout the UK and Ireland every year. We work with such a wide variety of industries, from manufacturing, industrial, woodworking, pharmaceutical and automotive workshops to schools, colleges and military establishments.
Request your FREE, no-obligation LEV site assessment today!