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    SILICA EXPOSURE AND CONTROL

    Survey reveals construction ‘Silica Baseline’ at low level

    The Silica Baseline Survey has established intelligence on exposure and control of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in construction and 3 other UK industry sectors. The findings for construction are:

    • Levels – many construction activities are capable of generating dust and RCS concentrations considerably above Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL).
    • Exposure – levels of exposure above the WEL were measured at almost 50% of sites visited;
    • Assessement – employers underestimated the extent of exposures to RCS and failed to make control a priority. Where assessments were made exposure control was more likely to be maintained;
    • Control – adoption of engineered controls as standard would in most cases reduce exposures to within WELs. RPE competency is not adequate to ensure reliable protection without engineered controls;
    • Management – unacceptable exposures are likely to occur in the absence of a formal approach and structured controls.

    Comment: These findings should cause concern to the construction sector from client to contractor. The Baseline Survey shows that both potential and actual exposure to RCS is significant. The programme of action required is clear: carry out formal structured assessments of the tasks, implement engineering controls and make the subject a greater priority.  

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