Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) is a substance of significant concern in various industrial processes, particularly in construction, manufacturing, and mining. RCS particles are extremely fine and can become airborne during operations like cutting, drilling, or grinding, posing a severe risk to workers if not handled with care. To ensure the safety and well-being of individuals in these industries, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of RCS and the potential hazards it presents.
To facilitate your knowledge about RCS and its safe management, we've assembled a collection of informative PDF resources right here on our website. These materials offer in-depth insights into the nature of RCS, its properties, and practical guidance on how to mitigate exposure in the workplace. Whether you are an occupational health specialist, a safety manager, or simply someone interested in safeguarding the health of workers, these PDFs are invaluable tools for learning about the safe handling and control of Respirable Crystalline Silica.
By equipping yourself with the knowledge and resources available on our site, you can play an essential role in promoting a safer work environment and protecting the health of those who may be exposed to RCS. Explore our RCS resources today and empower yourself to make informed decisions regarding this critical workplace hazard.
Resources for understanding and controlling risk from respirable crystalline silica dust
Respirable crystalline silica dust is released when quartz and sand are crushed, cut or abraded. Quartz is found in most stone, brick, concrete and mortar products. Crystalline silica may be created when non-crystalline silicates are heated in furnaces, so even safe silica can become harmful.
Whilst crystalline silica in the form of a brick can cause a nasty injury, it is the extremely fine dust, the respirable size dust that we need to avoid.
Respirable crystalline silica is extremely harmful when it reaches the depths of the lungs because our bodies react by creating too much scar tissue. Scar tissue prevents oxygen getting into our bodies and carbon dioxide from getting out. Extensive scar tissue in the lungs would make you very ill and barely able to talk. Then you die. There is no cure.
Control this dust so we don’t breathe it in
The basics are:
Limit dust emissions by enclosing machines, extracting air from them and using water damping where possible.
Don’t create clouds of dust on purpose by sweeping or tipping from a height. Never airline blow dust containing crystalline silica.
Follow official guidance to discharge your duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1972. This prevents ill health and when documented is the employer’s defence in prosecutions and claims.
COSHH Essentials series from the HSE. Simple and pragmatic. Guidance is given on the control of risk from respirable crystalline silica in different industries. They can be found on the HSE website.
Fatal Factories has picked out the most useful publications.
INDG 463 Control of exposure to silica dust – A guide for employees
Pretty useful information for employees (and it’s from the HSE so we really should use it).
HSG 258 Controlling airborne contaminants at work – A guide to local exhaust ventilation
What to buy, how it works, managing it. Semi technical but maintenance engineers should be familiar with it to get the most out of your extraction. Don’t ever get fobbed off with flexible arm hoods by dust-control suppliers.
Health surveillance and air monitoring to ensure the controls are good enough
G404 Health Surveillance for employees working with crystalline silica
What level and frequency of health checks are required, including x-rays.
Health surveillance for RCS professionals
G404 for occupational health professionals looking for signs of silicosis.
A selection of HSE publications and academic articles about crystalline silica. There are plenty more out there if you ask Google.
Application of PUF foam inserts for respirable dust in the brick manufacturing industry. deVocht F, Hirst A (2008)
Bear this study in mind when comparing respirable samples taken with foam inserts with exposure limits as this found that they under sample. I believe it.
Health surveillance for occupational respiratory disease Lewis L, Fishwick D (2013)
A critique and it shows that not all health surveillance meets its objectives. Points to discuss with your health surveillance provider.
HSE Work 19-20 OG 00109
The HSE goalposts for industries where exposures cause industrial lung disease.
Silicosis pathology and treatment
Interesting study showing the biochemical mechanisms of silicosis and how they can be used to design treatments. For a layman, there was sufficient interpretation for me to follow most of it.
Investigative Reporting Workshop.Org - Lung disease strikes countertop cutters
I can’t recommend this journalese enough for the picture of silicosis it paints.