Occupational Hygiene - Silica Dust
Work operations involving stone, rock, concrete, brick, mortar and plaster can create dust including fine silica dust, which is over 100 times smaller than the sand you would find on beaches, and therefore can be inhaled by operatives.
For employees working in a number of sectors, including ceramics, foundries, gritblasting, tunnelling, brick making, mining and construction, exposure to this silica dust, otherwise known as Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS), can be extremely harmful. In fact, prolonged exposure can cause lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
The Health & Safety Executive estimates silica dust is responsible for the death of up to 1,000 workers each year – the second biggest occupational cancer risk after asbestos. Are you taking appropriate measures?
• Assess the risks to employee health within a risk assessment• Keep a written record of the risk assessment if they employ more than five people• Tell employees anything significant about the risk assessment• Consider where practicable substituting material with a lower RCS content Prevent or control exposures to RCS by:- Following good occupational hygiene practice to achieve adequate control of exposure- Where necessary, provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)- Maintain all equipment used as control measures in good working order- Instruct and train employees to use equipment properly- Provide information on health risks to employees- Monitor to ensure that controls are effective and that the Workplace Exposure Limit for RCS is not exceeded- Where appropriate advise on health surveillance
• Identify exposure groups• Employee training and education• Evaluation of mitigation strategies• Develop, implement and continuously review control measures to keep RCS exposure levels below defined Workplace Exposure Limit
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