There was an excellent article recently in Construction News by Acting News Editor, Tim Clark, that highlights one of the hottest topics in the construction industry, the ticking time-bomb that is respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust. The second biggest killer in the construction industry.
Air pollution reports across the UK have highlighted the dangers in the air we breathe and the HSE have made, understanding of RCS one of its 3 key priorities. Crystalline silica is highly prevalent in sandstone, concrete, tile, granite, slate and brick. When any of these materials are cut, broken or just disrupted the dust particles released can be dangerous not just for the workers on-site but also the general public. In his article, Tim Clark, mentions a statement by London Mayor “non-transport sources contribute half of the deadly emissions in London”, this is likely to be replicated across the UK. How can this be prevented though?
1. Create Awareness of RCS
Asbestos was rightly brought to the publics attention and there has been incredible work carried to eradicate it, is it time we did the same with RCS? With at least 450 deaths in the construction industry a year being attributed to it, awareness of this silent killer is key. As mentioned, it is high on the list for the HSE and if the construction media (such as Construction News recent article and PP Construction Safety ever excellent work) can take an active role in making the industry sit up and take notice to safeguard themselves and the public, it is only a good thing.
2. Develop and Carry Out A Strategy
As Philip Poynter explains in his article, ‘The second phase of campaign looks for compliance on dust management’, the HSE started their targeted inspection campaign at the start of last month. As part of their 3 key priorities, HSE has made concerted effort to develop a strategy to help aid and ensure full compliance is carried out.
3. Educate The Audience
The misconception that harmful dust cannot be eradicated or even, controlled is harming the fight against it. Construction contractors, clients and designers, need to be clearly educated on what the dangers are and what they can do to help prevent. We are finding that due to pressures, many designers are choosing concrete products without following due process and understanding the alternatives, leaving the liable.
4. Provide Alternatives To Help
The UK really does lead the way in health and safety. Proper management and use of PPE is vital, as well as, clear understanding of the alternatives to dominant materials in the industry such as concrete and brick. There are some incredible, alternatives that are safe and easy-to-use. More should be done by the governing bodies to both support and promote the use of alternative products that in many cases, are more cost-effective and efficient than the existing materials.
As well as the key objectives of helping protect workers, the public and the environment, alternative solutions, such as DuraKerb, also prevent companies from exposure to legal issues that go hand-in-hand with worker death and/or injury. Already prevalent in the US, Silicosis Lawsuits can cost companies millions in compensation and reputation damage.