The Dangers 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, swapping from a cut off saw to a block splitter. Also, trying a different method of work like a direct fastening system.


Dust will still occur 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.


Respiratory Protective Equipment is to be used as well. It must be adequate for the amount and type of dust. The general construction level (in the UK) is an APF (Assigned Protection Level) of 20. This means that the wearer breathes in 1/20th of dust in the air. 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.


Etag have many products that we can help you keep dust down. The Armorgard Cutting Station can significantly reduce dust and eliminates the need for a separate cutting room. Extraction and air filtration units can easily be fitted. 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. M class vacuums are especially suited for extracting concrete and rock dust. The vacuums can also be included with tools such as drills, to protect the user’s health.


For more information on products, contact our Technical Sales Team by calling 01 835 7424 or email


All information has been sourced from the Construction Industry Federation and

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