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CAMPAIGNERS CALL FOR TOUGHER RCS LIMITS

anglegrinderHazards Magazine criticise regulator reluctance on silica risk

Professor Rory O’Neill of University of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Research Group (OEHSRG) has called on regulators to tighten workplace safeguards against on respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust.

The paper in Hazards Magazine argues that RCS is second only to asbestos as a cause of occupational cancer deaths. Exposure can cause a range of other illnesses including “silicosis, tuberculosis, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and arthritis.”

The current UK Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) of 0.1 milligrams per cubic metre is the same limit set in the US, but the American regulator OSHA has argued in favour of cutting it by half. The OEHSRG want HSE to follow suit and tighten standards, but the British regulator is opposed to the move due to technological limitations in monitoring silica levels accurately at lower levels.

Who on Earth is HSE protecting?

Prof O’Neill said:

“Modern science can obtain and analyse dust on Mars. If HSE’s science can’t obtain and analyse adequately one of the most commonly encountered and deadly workplace dust exposures here on Earth, who on Earth they are protecting?”

A spokeswoman for the Health and Safety Executive said the body focused on ensuring the correct controls were in place in workplaces.

“When these are in place silica dust is usually reduced to significantly below the exposure limit. The advice HSE has received indicates that it is not practical or achievable to consistently and reliably measure real workplace samples of respirable crystalline silica to significantly lower levels.

This is because the technical samplers currently used suffer from interference and poor precision at these low measurement masses. Measurement below the current workplace exposure limit would require complex sampling and analysis processes which have not been validated.”

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