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    CRYSTALLINE SILICA RISKS IN CONSTRUCTION

    USA and UK regulators provide wealth of information on controls

    Silica occurs as a natural component of many materials used or encountered in construction activities. Crystalline silica can cause lung disease and is present in sand, sandstone and granite, and often forms a significant proportion of clay, shale and slate.

    Products such as concrete and mortar also contain crystalline silica. The health hazards of silica come from breathing in the dust.

    Activities which can expose workers or members of the public to the dust include: stone masonry; facade renovation; blast cleaning of buildings, especially using sand; many demolition processes; concrete scabbling, cutting or drilling and;tunnelling.

    The use of power tools to cut or dress stone will lead to high exposures throughout the work. For other activities, exposure will often depend upon how confined the working space is, the presence or absence of ventilation and how near the worker’s breathing zone is to the source of the dust.

    HSE has published a series of 11 advice sheets covering silica in construction whilst NIOSH  in the US has produced on line information on silca dust engineering controls for construction

    Comment: Controlling exposure to silica is an increasingly important health priority for the HSE Construction Division. Most construction companies and projects would do well to review and promote implementation of the current guidance on this subject.

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