Reducing Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust Effectively

Dust in the workplace is often perceived as a painful reality, be it dust in the quarry, in agriculture or on construction sites. It is annoying, but it seems normal, it has always been there, so to speak. But more and more people are trying to avoid dust. Especially when renovating existing buildings, the owners demand “dust-free” work. People want to avoid the extensive cleaning that would otherwise be necessary. For many, dust is harmless; it is perceived as a nuisance mainly because it is associated with cleaning work. Yet it can also cause disease.

Silica dust in particular, which is actually always present during construction work, is underestimated. Inhaling respirable crystalline silica (RCS) can lead to serious health effects such as Silicosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Lung cancer.

With the 2017 revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive 004/37/EC, an occupational exposure limit value of 0.1 mg/m³ was set for RCS. Against this background, the European social partners EFBWW and FIEC launched the EU-funded project “Reducing Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust Effectively” to support the implementation of the new occupational exposure limit value for respirable crystalline silica on construction sites.

The project partners believe that solutions for prevention of exposure to RCS are achievable for most construction activities. So as to reach those levels, a dialogue between social partners from various countries, the respective prevention bodies and other stakeholders (amongst others providers of technical equipment and scientists) is crucial and a good starting point. Most of these stakeholders are represented in the project Steering Group.

The project aims to provide information on silica dust exposure for as many activities on construction sites as possible. This will make it possible to describe good or bad practice for each activity in a “mapping”.

This is what the Mapping for the tiler could look like:

Example of mapping the various risks while working as a tiler: removing tiles, mixing the tile glue, cutting tiles and cleaning

The more specific goals of the project are:

  • Evaluate the level of protection needed for the different activities of construction works;
  • Describe technical and organizational measures to reach the best achievable level of protection;
  • Publish a research report in English;
  • Map various types of construction works and evaluate their level of RCS exposure;
  • Make the information available in as many languages as possible;
  • Provide guidance on the required technical innovation for those activities for which the new limit value is more complicated or impossible to achieve.

The Mapping will be translated into at least 10 languages in order to motivate low-dust construction and renovation in practical terms on the construction sites in Europe. The documents will be published from the beginning of 2022.

Read the factsheet on Silica Dust
Check out these good practices on working with Silica

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