A global safety and health body is calling for a pan-industry approach to controlling mineral dust in the workplace.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) believes a more collaborative approach on the issue could help to reduce the occupational cancer burden in the UK, describing silica dust exposure as “a cross-industry issue which requires cross-industry action”.
Experts from different industries are coming together today (March 14) to discuss the prospect of working together to make a difference.
Lack of understanding
Around 800 people die from lung cancer caused by prolonged exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) at work every year, while a further 900 new cases are diagnosed.
According to IOSH research, a lack of understanding or awareness of silica dust as a hazard is the main reason for exposure and the subsequent health problems.
Resistance from employees to using controls, ineffective implementation of control measures in practice and employers not prioritising RCS as a significant hazard are also contributing.
Construction, rail, public services and mineral product sectors on silica dust exposure were polled to identify common barriers to effectively controlling the issue.
Shelley Frost, executive director of policy at IOSH, said joined up thinking, rather than each sector doing its own thing, has the potential to make a real difference in tackling what is a major occupational health issue – and hopes it will become a reality
Representatives from the Health and Safety Executive, the Office of Road and Rail, Crossrail Ltd, the Mineral Products Association and Unite the Union are among those taking part in the roundtable discussion.
One of those speaking is Professor John Cherrie, from Heriot-Watt University and the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh.
He said many employees are currently being exposed to RCS above the acceptable limit in the UK and throughout the world.
Construction is the biggest industry where people can get exposed to RCS, although anyone working in a workplace that uses mineral products may face exposure, such as foundries, brickworks and quarries or premises where stone products are manufactured.
People working with marble, plaster, sand and various other similar substances could be at risk of developing silicosis at some point in the future.
Date Published: March 15, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown