The Risk of Silica Dust in Construction HOME > The Risk of Silica Dust in Construction

Silica is a natural substance found in most rocks, sand and clay, and in products such as bricks and concrete.

Work processes such as cutting, sanding, carving, grinding, blasting or polishing materials containing silica can generate respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

RCS dust particles are so small they cannot be seen under ordinary lighting. RCS is hazardous to health, the small particle size means it is easily inhaled deep into the lungs.

Construction workers are more likely to be exposed to RCS when performing:

  • tunnelling
  • labouring
  • demolition
  • concrete grinding or scabbling
  • brick, concrete or stone cutting, especially using dry methods
  • excavation, earth moving and drilling plant operations
  • paving and surfacing.

Inhaling RCS can lead to silicosis. Silicosis is a serious and irreversible lung disease that causes permanent disablement and early death, and it is made worse by smoking.

Silicosis usually follows exposure to RCS over many years, but extremely high exposures across the short-term can cause it to develop rapidly.

Exposure to RCS has been linked to lung cancer and may also contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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