From 1st October 2012, contractors will no longer have the option of using a cut-off saw to dry cut valley tiles.
In a bid to reduce the risks from silica dust, industry has supported changes to working methods which mean that, should a cut-off saw be used for cutting valley tiles, water suppression as well as the correct RPE will also be expected. This is in line with the controls currently in use for cutting tiles in other sections of the roof.
Contractors do have the option of using other methods as long as they can demonstrate these are equally as effective at controlling the silica risk.
More information about this can be found on the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) website.
Note: This is not a change to the law. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) still apply in the same form. Inspectors can take enforcement action should they find that risks from silica are not being managed effectively to comply with the law.
The changes to working methods result from recent work by HSE to monitor the exposure of roofers to silica dust. This has shown that levels of silica dust created when dry cutting valley tiles are much higher than published safety limits. This means that a high standard of control is needed.
Silica is a natural mineral present in large amounts in many construction materials like concrete roof tiles. The silica is broken into very fine dust (also known as Respirable Crystalline Silica or RCS) during common tasks such as cutting. Regularly breathing in this dust can cause serious lung disease like silicosis and lung cancer. Recent HSE research has estimated that silica may be responsible for the deaths of over 600 people each year who have worked in construction.