We all know about the dangers of asbestos and how it can cause fatalities to those who have been in direct contact with disturbed asbestos fibres years, even decades, ago. Recently however, there have been growing calls for silica dust to be treated in the same way that we now treat asbestos, with a group of MPs and Lords asking for a brand-new set of regulations to improve health and safety standards in the workplace where silica is concerned.
The All Parliamentary Group for Respiratory Health stated that there should be more procedures and regulations in place to tackle the growing problem of silicosis. This is the most common form of chronic lung disease linked to a person’s occupation and is a disease that stands at the top of these lists the world over.
The lung disease is caused by respirable crystalline silica. This is created when bricks or stone are cut into, drilled into, or fractured, and there are around 450 lung cancer deaths each year purely within former construction workers who have been exposed to this dust. An enquiry into the disease found that this is a huge problem that requires a solution and has recommended some options for future safeguarding against the breathing in of silica dust.
These recommendations include halving the legal workplace exposure limit to 0.05mg per metre cubed, which was the scientific recommendation back in 2003 to occupation exposure limits laid out by the scientific committee. It is also recommended that brand-new health and safety regulations are introduced to control respirable crystalline silica – including a thorough testing that included staged levels of diagnosis that allow for greater employer understanding of whether or not a certain employee should continue to be exposed to silica dust.
The chair of the parliamentary group, Jim Shannon, said: “This inquiry has given us real insight into the steps being taken to improve at-work health, especially around the issue of silica dust. We hope this report will assist the Health and Safety Executive, the government and the construction industry to shine light on an under-documented issue and protect the construction workforce from preventable injury and illnesses.”
Until we have further research and definitive protocol relating to silica dust it is important to continue the fine work being carried out by asbestos survey, asbestos testing, and asbestos management companies throughout the UK. Asbestos has caused a high number of deaths over the last few decades, despite the material being phased out over a period of 30 years before the complete ban in 1999. If you are the person responsible for the management of a building, or you are worried about the potential for asbestos to be present in your home, you should contact a local, licensed asbestos management company to survey your building. If any asbestos is found you can then put together a clear plan of action to remove asbestos safely and securely, protecting those present in the building.