In the next 6 articles, Morag McWilliam takes a look at employees’ exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica and who might be at risk. Morag details what employers must do to manage the health risks, control measures which should be applied, exposure limits, the use and maintenance of Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) systems, health surveillance, exposure monitoring and training.
Early-stage silicosis does not have any symptoms, and the individual will not know that they are developing a life-altering, and potentially life-limiting condition.
To detect early signs of COPD, silicosis and dermatitis, a health surveillance programme should be introduced.
Health surveillance is not a control measure, but it is a means of monitoring the workforce to make sure they are not developing silicosis.
An appropriate health surveillance programme can help to detect the early signs of lung disease, and the employer can then manage the affected individual to ensure that they are no longer exposed to RCS. However, as well as removing affected individuals from further exposure, the employer must also re-examine their work processes to identify where potential exposures to RCS are occurring and what additional controls must be implemented.
Advice from a competent occupational health professional (doctor or occupational health advisor) should be sought when setting up a health surveillance programme.
Further guidance on health surveillance is available here:
- G403 – Health surveillance for occupational contact dermatitis (OCD).https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/guidance/g403.pdf
- G404 – Health surveillance for silicosis. https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/guidance/g404.pdf
EXPOSURE MONITORING FOR RCS
Once exposure control measures have been implemented, air monitoring may be needed to show that adequate control of exposure to RCS is being achieved by the systems in place. This should be undertaken by a competent person such as a suitably qualified occupational hygienist.
Further guidance on exposure monitoring is available here:
- Exposure measurement: Air sampling. https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/guidance/g409.pdf
INFORMATION, INSTRUCTION AND TRAINING
Employees should be trained on the health hazards associated with exposure to RCS and how they can be exposed to it during the course of their work.
They should also be trained on the control measures being used at the workplace, how to use them safely, how to check and maintain them, and how to recognize and report any faults with them.
Employers should make sure their employees maintain good skin hygiene and provide facilities such as access to hot water and where appropriate, skin conditioners and barrier creams to ensure that the risk of dermatitis is controlled.
It is important to make sure that any training given to employees concerning the hazards, risks and control measures associated with RCS includes a means of knowledge checking. This and the training attendance records should be maintained to demonstrate that the information has been shared in an appropriate manner.
This is the last in a series of articles about raising awareness of the dangers of RCS, you can catch up on all the previous parts here. If you would like to talk further please email [email protected].