HSE inspectors are visiting manufacturing businesses to ensure workers’ health is being protected from the risks of respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Inspectors are checking that employers and their workers know the risks and have control measures in place to prevent exposure to RCS which can cause irreversible lung disease in breathed in over time.
Employers should talk to their workers about the risks, and how to avoid them. Make sure they understand how a job should be done safely without creating risks to their health.
WHAT IS SILICA?
Silica is a natural substance found in varying amounts in most stone, rocks, sand and clay. These materials may contain large amounts of respirable crystalline silica (RCS), which can be fatal if particles are breathed in over time.
Silica particles are produced during many manufacturing tasks. Brick and tile manufacture and cutting, stone working and foundry work can all produce silica particles in the airborne dust which are too small to be seen. Regularly breathing in this dust over a long time can cause irreversible, life-changing lung diseases.
Even breathing in small amounts of silica dust (RCS), as shown here, puts you at risk of developing lung disease.
UNDERSTAND THE DANGERS!
Exposure to silica dust can cause serious health problems and may lead to an early death. By breathing it in, your workers could develop the following lung diseases:
- Silicosis: Silicosis makes breathing more difficult and increases the risk of lung infections. Silicosis usually follows exposure over many years, but extremely high exposures can lead rapidly to ill health.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): COPD is a group of lung diseases, including bronchitis and emphysema, resulting in severe breathlessness, prolonged coughing and chronic disability.
- Lung cancer: Heavy and prolonged exposure to RCS dust can cause lung cancer.