Legal Experts Say Threat Posed By Silica Dust Must Be Taken Far More Seriously
In the wake of a new report on the danger posed by silica dust, lawyers say more must be done to protect workers, to prevent silicosis from replacing asbestos as the nation’s ‘silent killer’.
In the light of the report by B&CE, workplace illness experts at Irwin Mitchell are calling for a review of the current silica exposure limit and for the government to institute a health screening programme for workers exposed to the killer dust.
The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Respiratory Health (APPG) hopes the report “will shine a light on an under-documented issue”, yet compared to asbestos, awareness among at risk groups of the danger posed by silica remains low.
Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is a mineral found in rocks, sand and gravel. It is used in concrete, reconstituted and engineered stone kitchen tops and found naturally in sandstone, granite, marble and other rocks and stones. RCS can cause severe, progressive and debilitating lung disease called silicosis and can also cause lung cancer.
The report suggests 600,000 workers may be exposed to silica in the UK alone and recommends a change to current exposure limits, plus campaigns to drive greater awareness of the risks.
The UK may be falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to taking steps to prevent silica exposure. UK workers can legally be exposed to double the amount of silica dust when compared to workers in the US.
Expert Opinion“Exposure to silica dust is dangerous and must be treated with the same caution as asbestos. The cases we are seeing, coupled with this report and evidence from other countries suggest current UK exposure limits are too high.
Workers are not getting the health checks they need, so the full effect from silica dust will not be known for many years. Until things change, preventable, fatal lung diseases will continue and the current number of victims may be just the beginning.
Asbestos remains a major health issue but we must do more to break down a wall of silence when it comes to silicosis. This report and the APPG’s response is a good first step. Now we need the government to take silica dust seriously and do more to protect workers.
Our workplace illness experts have been calling for tighter standards for some time now this report and the APPG’s comments must start a wider and long overdue debate on another preventable condition that claims far too many lives in the UK.” Adrian Budgen - Partner