Many types of sand, rock, clay and stone contain a substance known as silica and can create fine dusts which, when inhaled, cause the long-term lung disease, silicosis.
Silicosis causes swelling and inflammation, as well as hardening and scarring the soft tissues of the lungs, preventing them from functioning properly. This scarring/hardening is also known as fibrosis.
It is of particular risk to workers in the following industries:
Stone cutting and masonry
Worktop fitting and manufacturing
Glass, ceramics, and pottery
Quarrying and mining
Silicosis – The Symptoms and Signs
The development of silicosis symptoms can take many years, with symptoms sometimes going unnoticed until long after you've stopped working with silica dust. Symptoms can continue to worsen over time, even without continued exposure.
Symptoms of silicosis can include the following:
Persistent short of breath
Fatigue and weakness
Symptoms may increase in severity as the condition worsens. Sufferers may begin to find climbing stairs or walking incredibly difficult, even becoming confined to bed in worse cases. In rare cases, silicosis can become fatal if respiratory failure or other serious complications occur.
There are no cures for silicosis as the lung damage is permanent, it can only be treated to relieve or reduce symptoms.
Treatments for silicosis can include:
Oxygen therapy may be offered if the sufferer is having difficulty breathing or has low oxygen levels in their blood.
Bronchodilator medicines can make breathing easier by widening the airways.
Lung transplants can be an option in very severe cases, although the health requirements before even being considered are strict.
Silicosis can be prevented by avoiding exposure to silica dust. All workplaces in the UK must comply with workplace exposure limits for silica set by The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.
As an employer, you should:
Warn your employees about any health risks
Ensure that your employees are fully aware of correct procedures for reducing the risk of exposure to silica dust
Provide your employees with the necessary equipment to protect them
What Can RCS Do For You?
RCS's engineers will endeavour to provide you with the most effective and cost-efficient solution for controlling fine silica dust, fully COSSH compliant, following current HSE guidelines and your own individual requirements. Call us on +44(0)1563 546807 or click here to contact us for more information.