Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS); An invisible Hazard

Published 20th October 2022

The HSE has just started targeted inspections of businesses focusing on the risks associated with respirable crystalline silica.

Silica is a natural substance occurring in sand, rocks, clays and in quartz. It is used in a wide range of industrial processes including quarrying, stone cutting, cement and plaster use, construction, foundries, glassmaking, sandblasting and many others.

RCS is a fine dust produced by these industrial processes. The particles are very small, 1/10 the size of a grain of the finest sand and are invisible.  This small size means that the particles can pass into the depths of the lungs if inhaled.  Once in the lungs, RCS can cause inflammation, permanent damage and lung cancer.

Because RCS cannot be seen there is a risk that workers may unknowingly inhale it. RCS levels can be measured from air samples taken in the workplace. The Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) in the UK is 0.1 mg/m3 averaged over eight hours.

Surveys suggest that many workers, especially in small enterprises, may be exposed to significantly higher levels than the WEL.

Reducing the risk associated with this hazard should follow the standard sequence of interventions;

                Is there any alternative material that could be used?

               Can the work be done remotely or at a greater distance from the worker?

                Using local exhaust ventilation to reduce RCS levels in the air.

                Protecting workers with appropriate respiratory protection equipment.

                Arranging health surveillance if the risk assessment determines that this is necessary.

For further information please contact Workplace Wellness

Workplace Wellness is the trading name of Bradford on Avon Occupational Health Services Ltd.
Registered in England: 9749251
VAT no. 27144823278
Registered Office: 29 Bridge Street Bradford on Avon Wiltshire BA15 1BY

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