As a construction worker, you’re probably in contact with dust all day long. Although most types of dust associated with construction are harmless, some are more dangerous than they may seem.

One example of this is silica dust; a surprisingly common workplace hazard. But what is it, why is it harmful and how can you protect yourself and your workforce from the debilitating consequences it causes?

Join HLS Training as we break it down.

What is Silica Dust?

Silica dust is the dust form of the chemical compound crystalline silica. Scientifically, it is formed from silicon and oxygen atoms. It’s found in a wide range of natural materials like rock, clay, gravel, stone and sand.

Despite crystalline silica being one of the most plentiful materials on the planet, silica dust can be incredibly harmful to human lungs.

Silica dust is released during the following activities:

  • Drilling
  • Sanding
  • Cutting
  • Sawing
  • Chipping

It is common for silica dust to be present in construction, paving industries, mining, quarrying, stone masonry, sand blasting and demolition.

Why is silica dust harmful?

Inhalation of silica dust causes irreversible lung conditions that can be life limiting. These include:

  • Lung disease
  • Industrial asthma
  • Lung cancer
  • Silicosis
  • Kidney disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What is Silicosis?

Silicosis is one of the most common conditions associated with inhaling silica dust. It occurs when silica dust becomes trapped in lung tissue which causes inflammation, scarring and permanent lung damage.

It can take around 10 years of exposure to show symptoms, but the harm it causes in the meantime must still be taken seriously.

Symptoms of silicosis include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Unexplained chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing

Silicosis is life altering and can be fatal so following the correct safety procedures in the workplace is vital.

How to protect yourself from silica dust

Respiratory masks shouldn’t be used as a primary defence against silica dust or other airborne components. Control measures and prevention are proven to be the most effective method of protecting people from inhalation.

To safeguard yourself and your workforce from silicosis in the workplace, always:

  • Plan ahead to control the release of dust
  • Avoid using substances that have more than 1% crystalline silica
  • Use wet drilling and sawing methods as well as blast-cleaning machines
  • Maintain dust control systems
  • Keep on top of hygiene
  • Wear protective, disposable clothes and change before you leave your place of work
  • Use respiratory protectors
  • Display signs where there is potential of exposure to crystalline silica
  • Provide routine health examinations for crew who are exposed to crystalline silica
  • Provide adequate training to your workforce
  • Report cases of silicosis to State health departments and OSHA

In order to ensure your workforce is protected from common hazards, you need to remain up to date on your health and safety knowledge. At HLS Training, our CITB Management Safety Training Scheme and CITB Management Safety Training Scheme Refresher courses are designed to provide you with the appropriate skills and knowledge required to prevent avoidable hazards, injuries and health deterioration in the workplace.

Book your course today.