News & Insights

The Hazards of Silica Dust

Silica is a natural substance in varying amounts found in most rocks, sand and clay. In sandstone there is approximately 70% silica and granite approximately 15-30%. It is a major constituent in most construction materials, such as brick, tiles, concrete and mortar. Dust happens on site during many construction tasks such as drilling, cutting, grinding and polishing. The dust can be fine enough to get into the lungs.

The fine dust is commonly known as silica dust and is too fine to be seen with normal lighting. It is the next biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos. Heavy prolonged exposure to silica dust can cause lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases such as Silicosis. This causes serious breathing problems and increases the risk of lung infections. Another is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is a group of lung diseases including bronchitis and emphysema. It results in severe breathlessness, prolonged coughing and chronic disability.

There are ways to control the risk of silica dust by reducing the amount in the air. Choosing the right size of material, so there is less cutting. Use silica free abrasives to reduce risks when blasting. Using less powerful tools, for example, swopping from a cut off saw to a block splitter. Also, trying a different method of work like a direct fastening system, such as gas or powder nailing systems. The Sympafix ISO 200 is one such nailer that shoots a direct fixing of hard and soft insulation into hard and soft concrete and solid stone with no need for drilling.

Dust will still occur particularly when drilling, and there are ways to control the amount that gets into the air, such as water and on tool extraction. Water dampens the dust clouds, however, it would need to be used correctly. There must be enough water supplied at the right levels for the whole time that work is being done. It is not enough to just dampen the material.

On tool extraction removes dust as it is being produced with a local exhaust ventilation fixed to the tool. It must have a capturing hood, extraction unit, and tubing and be used to the right specification, High, Medium and Low. The Armorgard Cutting Station is one such tool that can significantly reduce dust and eliminates the need for a separate cutting room. Extraction and air filtration units can easily be fitted to the station. It can be used to safely cut lengths of conduit, timber, cable tray and pipe.

Etag offer a cutting service to eliminate the risks on site through hotworks and dust. Lengths are pre-cut to size and removes cut off waste and no filing. The lengths arrive to site, ready to install.

Respiratory Protective Equipment is to be used as well. It must be adequate for the amount and type of dust. RP equipment must be suitable for work and not uncomfortable, compatible with other PPE gear, fit the wearer’s face correctly, and worn correctly. If the mask must be tight fitted, the wearer must be clean shaven. All RPE must be cleaned and stored correctly, particularly filters.

We also stock a good range of full and half face dust masks. Respirators are designed to cover the nose and mouth, and filter the air to remove contaminants so they cannot enter the lungs. P2 and P3 face masks offer higher level of protection and at Etag, we can offer fit tests to ensure the dust masks are suitable. It is recommended that the wearer is clean shaven as facial hair has been shown to affect the amount of protection.

The JSP Press To Filter is compatible with the Force 8 mask. The filter protects against construction dust and gives daily fit reassurance. The Force 8 mask is made with a durable thermoplastic rubber offering a superior fit to most face shapes.

 We also stock a good range of full and half face dust masks. Respirators are designed to cover the nose and mouth, and filter the air to remove contaminants so they cannot enter the lungs. P2 and P3 face masks offer higher level of protection and at Etag, we can offer fit tests to ensure the dust masks are suitable. It is recommended that the wearer is clean shaven as facial hair has been shown to affect the amount of protection.

For more information on products, contact our sales team by calling 01 835 7424 or email sales@etagfixings.com.