UNITE the union has today (5 August 2019) launched an online register that allows workers who are, and have been, exposed to silica dust to register their exposure. It is hoped the register will assist with potential future legal cases if they experience long term health problems.
Silica dust (respirable crystalline silica) is created when cutting, grinding, drilling or polishing, natural substances such as rocks and sand and is also a major constituent in bricks, tiles, concrete and materials.
Industries where workers are potentially exposed to silica include: mining, quarrying, foundries, potteries, ceramics, glass manufacturing, stonemasonry, construction and industries using silica flour.
Inhaling large amounts of silica dust over a long period can cause silicosis, a serious respiratory disease; it can also lead to other potentially fatal illnesses including lung cancer, tuberculosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Exposure to silica has also been linked to other illnesses such as kidney disease and other cancers.
The symptoms of silicosis take many years to develop, making a register even more important to identify when and where workers were exposed. The symptoms of silicosis include: shortness of breath, severe cough, fatigue, loss of appetite, chest pains and fever.
According to Unite, it is the employers’ responsibility to prevent workers from being exposed to silica dust; this should be by removing the risk, using dust suppression measures or by issuing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as properly fitting masks in order to prevent exposure.
Unite national health and safety advisor Bud Hudspith said: “The Unite silica register is an important step to help members provide evidence for possible future claims. Silica exposure can have long-term serious health consequences for workers, but simple measures can prevent the health of workers being damaged.
“Unfortunately many employers remain willing to play fast and loose with the health of their workers. Unite’s primary aim is to ensure employers prevent silicosis and lung cancer through the removal or strict control of silica dust.”
|The silica exposure register can be found here.|