On 18 January 2022, the final seminar of the EU-funded project “Reducing Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust Effectively” took place online. Some 100 experts from nearly 20 countries participated in this seminar. The EU project was initiated by the European social partners for the construction industry EFBWW and FIEC. Especially against the background of the lowering of the European limit value for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) to 0.1 mg/m³.
The final seminar
On 18 January, Zinta Podniece presented the EU strategy on health and safety at work 2021-2027 for DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Matthieu Lassus from the French OPPBTP reported on campaigns in France to reduce RCS on construction sites and Ann-Beth Antonsson, an expert from Sweden, dedicated her presentation to air cleaners, which play an essential role in the project’s new approach.
Christine Le Forestier (FIEC) and Rolf Gehring (EFBWW), who also moderated the seminar, presented the social partners’ view on dust on construction sites. Reinhold Rühl, who carried out the project for the Hamburg Institute Ökopol (https://oekopol.de/), then explained the focal points of the project, which will be discussed below. In the final third of the seminar, Martin Sonnberger from the Austrian company PORR presented challenges and best practices for prevention concepts at company level. Darren Arkins from Ireland explained for SLIC that tackling RCS exposures – A perspective from the National Labour Inspectors.
Report about the project work
Reinhold Rühl’s presentation of the main steps of the project work aroused interest in reading the English-language project report. In the steering group for the project, discussions on illnesses caused by RCS, the silica content of construction materials and the European limit values for respirable dust, inhalable dust and RCS resulted in the guiding principle for the development of the Guidance document (the mapping). The mapping is a simple guide for the construction site, describing in a few words what good and poor dust practice looks like. This mapping will be available in 12 languages.
The collection of exposure data on dust on construction sites was based on current reports from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and, above all, the SLIC report from 2016 (see literature). However, Rühl clearly pointed out that not only exposure data was relied on to make recommendations on low-dust work. Experience on construction sites also played an essential role in the decisions made in the project. Numerous low-dust techniques are presented in the report. Not all of them are already known or even in use in all countries.
Respiratory protection on construction sites was discussed at length in the steering group. In many papers on dust exposure on construction sites, respiratory protection is recommended as a backup measure in addition to technical protective measures such as extraction on grinding machines. At the same time, however, many of these publications refer to the lack of reliability of respiratory protection, especially on construction sites.
Therefore, the project takes a new approach. A combination of protective measures is recommended and respiratory protection is dispensed with wherever possible. Air cleaners are recommended as a backup measure, in addition to extracted grinding machines, extracted demolition hammers, … Although there is not yet enough measurement data to scientifically prove the effectiveness of this combination of protective measures, there are many experiences that show that the European limit values are undercut in this way.
In accordance with the STOP principle, technical protective measures should always be used first. Even if a technical protective measure is already being used, another technical protective measure should be used first (if this is possible) before breathing protection is worn. Rühl points out that in principle the SLIC paper from 2016 mentioned above is followed, with the new findings that air cleaners are used as a backup measure instead of respiratory protection.
The report concludes by pointing out the innovations identified for low-dust work, but also the problems that still exist.
All documents are available
- Alazard, Alison: Rapport de fin d’étude préliminaire: étude de l’émission des poussières de silice cristalline lors d’opérations du BTP. OPPBPT Publication, Janvier 2021
- ANSES: Dangers, expositions et risques relatifs à la silice cristalline. Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail; 14 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 94701 Maisons-Alfort Cedex; Avril 2019
- Antonsson, Ann-Beth and Sahlberg, Bo: Referensmätningar för kvartsexponering vid ROT-arbeten inom byggindustrin. IVL Svenska Miljöinstitutet AB, Box 210 60, 100 31 Stockholm; March 2019
- Constructiv: Les risques liés à la poussière de quartz. Constructiv, Rue Royale 132/1 • 1000 Bruxelles, 7/2020
- Network Italiano Silice: Indicazione sulle misure di Prevenzione e Protezione per la riduzione della Esposizione a polveri contenenti Silice libera Cristallina. Marzo 2007
- Rühl, Reinhold: Staub auf Baustellen. Fraunhofer IRB Verlag, Stuttgart, 2018, ISBN 978-3-7388-0125-5
- SLIC: Senior Labour Inspectors’ Committee: Guidance for National Labour Inspectors on addressing risks from worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) on construction sites. October 2016