Silica - Respirable crystalline silica (RCS)
Silica is a natural substance found in most rocks, sand and clay and in products such as bricks and concrete. In the workplace these materials create dust when they are cut, sanded down etc. Some of this dust may be fine enough to reach deep inside the lung, this is known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and can cause harm to health. Significant exposure to RCS can cause silicosis and lung cancer.
An estimate from the cancer burden study of the number of deaths from lung cancer associated with exposure to RCS shows there are around 600 deaths per year with 450 of these occurring from exposures in the construction sector.
Initiatives that have been undertaken to raise awareness of the dangers of working with RCS include:
- Safety and Health Awareness Days - free events to provide practical advice for employers.
- Training tools for employees.
- Educational tools such as vocational learning packages
- Surveys to obtain levels of awareness and knowledge of the use of on-tool extraction methods.
- Leaflets to raise awareness of the dangers of dust
By registering, Information on these and other initiatives are available on the Occupational Disease community site.
Additional information on reducing exposures to silica in the workplace is available.