Silica Dust – How to deal with it!

Silica Dust is very present in the landscaping industry, and its dangers needs to be dealt with appropriately. Here is our guide to knowing and dealing with this pesky substance!

What is silica dust?

Silica is a natural substance found in most rocks, sand and clay and in products such as bricks and concrete. Silica is also used as filler in some plastics. In the workplace these materials create dust when they are cut, sanded, carved etc. Some of this dust may be fine enough to breathe deeply into your lungs and cause harm to your health. The fine dust is called respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and is too fine to see with normal lighting.

How much dust are we talking about?

The quantity of silica contained in stone and other materials varies considerably between different types of stone:

  • Sandstone 70–90%
  • Concrete, mortar 25–70%
  • Tile 30–45%
  • Granite 20–45%, typically 30%
  • Slate 20–40%
  • Brick is up to 30%
  • Limestone 2%
  • Marble 2%

Dust can also build up when you are using products like these through; leaks or spillages, dust containing silica dust isn’t cleaned up safely, clothing and surfaces are contaminated with the dust, accumulated dust that is ‘raised’ from the ground or other surfaces by moving vehicles and people, and fine dust remaining in the air from work activities.

How can Silica Dust harm your health?

Silica Dust can cause various lung diseases such as Silicosis which makes breathing more difficult and can make you more prone to lung infections. However the health risks from RCS are insignificant when exposure to dust is adequately controlled.

What should Employers do to protect staff?

Employers must comply with The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) (as amended) and need to:

  • Carry out a risk assessment and keep a written record of the risk assessment if they employ more than five people. They must also tell silica dustemployees anything significant about the risk assessment.
  • Consider where it would be practical to substitute materials with a lower silica dust content.
  • Keep exposure below the Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) (0.1 mg/m3 respirable dust, averaged over 8 hours).
  • Prevent or control exposures to the dust by: following good occupational hygiene practice, provide PPE where necessary and keep all control measure equipment in good working order, instruct and train you to use equipment properly.
  • Where appropriate arrange health surveillance.
  • Use dust suppression where possible.

Aura Landscapes are proud to take all necessary steps and protect their employees from the risks associated with Silica Dust.