A personal perspective from a retired stonemason and silicosis patient.

In this exclusive interview with Trolex, Gordon Sommerville shares his first-hand experience of the dangers of silica exposure and what you can do to protect yourself and others from the dangers of silica dust. 

“The only cure for dusty diseases at the moment is not to let dust get inside the body, which means in order for silica induced diseases to be classed as 100% preventable, awareness of the hazard throughout the exposed population is required.”

Gordon, now a retired stonemason, was diagnosed with silicosis in 2015. He started his career working in the construction industry after leaving school in 1976 and soon became a stonemason and builder to trade. In such an environment, working on projects both large and small throughout his career, dust was everywhere.

“No matter what type of work I was carrying out or who I was working for, daily dust was involved — and lots of it. I did not realise dust was making me ill but during my career there were little clues which should have raised a red flag.”

Gordon’s aim in sharing his story is to inform, educate and highlight the dangers of exposure to silica dust and to give advice to individuals who work in similar industries on how to avoid the issues that he now faces as a result of silicosis. 








    Client: 

    Pennine Aggregates 

    Location:

    Buxton, Derbyshire  

    Industry:

    Aggregate and mineral processing 

    Services:  

    Blending and mixing, bulk tanker loading, contract bagging, contract drying screening and sieving.

    Pennine Aggregates are one of the largest specialist aggregate and mineral processors in the UK. Based in Buxton, Pennine Aggregates are a global supplier to a wide range of companies, including ABC Industries as well as Sherwin-Williams, Cemex and Hansons in the UK.  

    A growing problem in this industry is the threat of occupational silicosis. 

    Silicosis now causes a huge number of deaths across an increasing number of industries, from clothing manufacturing to construction; but the aggregates industry have one of the highest risk profiles for this fatal occupational lung disease. This meant that Pennine Aggregates grabbed the opportunity with both hands to trial the world’s first real-time respirable crystalline silica (RCS) monitor, the Air XS Silica Monitor, to see how they could integrate it into their existing dust suppression processes. 

    Mark Dickinson, a director at Pennine Aggregates said: “It’s really important to us as a business that we are using every tool that’s available to keep our workers safe and we were really excited to have the chance to see what impact using the first real-time RCS monitor would have on our processes and on workforce morale.”  

    In April 2022, we supplied them with an Air XS unit to test their processes across two main site locations over a six-week period. For Pennine Aggregates, it wasn’t that they didn’t have dust suppression in place, but more that they didn’t know exactly how much dangerous silica dust each of their processes were producing. 

    Mike Thompson, QHSE Manager said: “We were asking ourselves right across the business – is our dust suppression actually getting the right amount dust out of the environment, as quite frankly, before we installed the Air XS on our site we just didn’t know.” 

    Pennine Aggregates ran the Air XS Silica Monitor on their site over a six-week period on each of the processes where they had put in place new dust suppression systems. 








      Occupational silicosis in the stone industry

      The effects of silicosis in the stone industry is not an unknown issue.

      But to what extent are stone workers aware of this issue? Are the specific causes of silicosis in the stone industry common knowledge? 

      A scientific report from nature.com highlights the difference between engineered stone and natural stone, in relation to their silica content, shedding some light on where the cause of silicosis could lie in the stone industry. 

       

      Silica dust is causing life-changing problems for stone masons

      Silicosis is one of the most dangerous respirable lung diseases in the workplace, especially when exposure to harmful silica dust is a common occurrence, such as in the stone industry. 

      It is estimated that globally, 40 to 50 million workers are exposed to silica dust in the workplace. 

      The Natural Stone Institute guide to awareness and prevention of silicosis determines that exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS), specifically in the stone industry comes from cutting or grinding materials, most commonly which contain quartz, is composed of silica dust. 

      Engineered stone vs Natural stone

      The purpose of the study from nature.com was to see, in relation to RCS, what the most threatening scenario was for worker’s health, in real time, when working with different compositions of stone. 

      In the study, 12 engineered stones were assessed against three natural stones – white marble, white granites and black granites. By dry-cutting all stones, silica dust was captured in a closed environment and subjected to various assays to determine both chemical and physical properties. 

      The 12 engineered stones’ silica content varied from one another, and the total RCS content made up of quartz and cristobalite ranged from 70.4% to 90.9%. By comparison, the natural stone’s silica content ranged from 3.5% to 30.1%, marking a clear difference. 

      As well as this, the dry-cutting of engineered stone generated finer RCS particles with one engineered stone having an average size of as little as 190 nanometres, meaning it could reach deeper in the lungs, in turn causing more damage. Contrastingly, the smallest average particle size of the natural stone was black granite, with an average size of 503 nanometres. 

      The results of this study concluded that silica dust emissions from engineered stones had a much higher concentration of quartz and cristobalite, therefore having a higher silica content and subsequently more damaging impact on respiratory health. 

      Is there a solution to silicosis within the stone industry?

      Ultimately, the report concluded that the higher the silica content of the stone, as well as the smaller size of RCS particles, the more dangerous it is to respirable health. 

      The Natural Stone Institute conclude in their guide to occupational silicosis that there is no cure for silicosis; however, “with the proper equipment, training, vigilance and continual monitoring, you and your shop floor can be free of the dangers”.  

      Being aware that harmful silica dust is higher within engineered stone, compared to natural stone, and by monitoring for this, as well as using correct respirable protective equipment (RPE) when working with engineered stone, it allows for correct precautions to be taken to avoid silicosis.  

      Prevention is the best cure.

      We’ve developed the world’s first real-time silica monitor, the Air XS Silica Monitor, and, along with other health and safety controls, this is one of the tools that will help to prevent occupational silicosis for those exposed to harmful silica dust in the workplace. 

      If you would like to learn more about our Air XS Silica Monitor, and specifically how it can help your safety processes to keep your workers safe from fatal occupational lung diseases, then complete the get in touch form below to arrange a call with one of our experts today. 








        “Act now to avoid the next asbestos” as silicosis cases rise in the UK

        The UK’s favourite DIY and home improvement expert, Tommy Walsh, is calling for more to be done to protect workers from the dangers of silica dust.

        Tommy believes that the issue of air quality on building sites should be a national concern, and that silica dust should be viewed the same way as asbestos.

        While he became aware of the dangers of silica dust as an issue around five years ago, in relation to the disposal of plasterboard, Tommy says that he has not heard the issue discussed on building sites. This is in spite of the fact that 81% of those regularly exposed to silica dust are construction workers.

        Silicosis: A national concern

        Tommy shared that the majority of health and safety concerns on smaller building sites are focused around obvious, external risks, such as falling from a ladder, electricity and water. As a result, he believes that more needs to be done to raise awareness of “invisible” risks, such as occupational silicosis, which is the most common chronic lung disease in the world.

        He continued, “over half of the country’s construction is done by small builders and ‘one-man-band’ outfits. Air quality has always been a secondary concern to them, as they don’t know enough about it. Everyone would rather work safe than not safe, but they can’t do that if they don’t have the awareness. Health and safety can often be ignored due to cost-saving, time-saving, or ignorance, but if we can normalise the importance of air quality it will make it harder to ignore.”

        Recent data has shown that respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos, with cases and exposure rising year on year. There are 12,000 deaths a year in the UK from inhalation of dust including silica in the workplace, opposed to just 142 recorded due to workplace accidents between 2020/2021. What’s more, there are an estimated 50,000 workers worldwide exposed to silica dust.

        The scale of the issue is not matched by the awareness and action needed to prevent it.

        Silicosis, as well as being the world’s most common occupational lung disease, can increase a person’s risk of tuberculosis, kidney disease, arthritis, and lung cancer. The consequences of occupational silicosis have been estimated to cost employers in the UK construction industry over £1 million per year.

        In order to raise awareness and protect construction workers from this entirely preventable disease, Trolex have launched the Air XS Silica Monitor, the world’s first real-time silica monitor, which can provide real-time data of dangerous silica dust particles workers are exposed to across any given day.

        Requiring no complicated set-up and only five minutes of maintenance a month, the Air XS Silica Monitor is easy-to-use and provides accurate, real-time RCS monitoring with minimal training, letting workers know if the amount of RCS content in their workspace is increasing as they work and when it has risen to dangerous levels.

        Get in touch today using the contact form below to speak to one of our experts about how the Trolex Air XS Silica Monitor can help protect workers from occupational silicosis.








          New Trolex Silica Detection Technology Inspires New APPG Perspective on Respiratory Health

          You may have seen The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Respiratory Health report ‘Silica – the next asbestos’ released in March 2020?

          In it, it states:

          “Construction workers are still 100 times more likely to die from a preventable occupational disease than from an accident. We also know that approximately 12,000 deaths in the industry each year are linked to exposure to dust and chemicals.”

          “Figures from IOSH show that roughly half a million people are exposed to RCS at work in the UK. They estimate that in Europe as a whole, 81% of these are employed in construction or in manufacturing products used in that industry.”

          Real time. Accurate. Affordable. 

          Experts at Trolex brought our new technology to the APPG’s attention and explained our nine-year silica detection R&D project that resulted in development of the new real-time silica monitor – work that we’d kept closely under wraps until mid 2021.

          Silica detection: A changing landscape.

          The original report refers to Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) of dust. It says:

          “Dust monitoring is vital. Technology advances mean that new methods of real-time exposure level monitoring are now possible. Knowing what the actual exposure levels are is important as exposure will depend on the actual task (e.g. cutting concrete is higher risk than breaking concrete, and the actual exposures depend on the concrete mixture).

          The new Code of Practice for Tunnelling […] that requires the use of new technology which is just becoming available and gives an instantaneous measurement.”

          The instantaneous measurement the report refers to is the measurement of a variety of dust and particulates (something we already do with our Air XD Dust Monitor and XD One Personal Dust Monitor products) – not specifically silica. Silica always being too difficult to uniquely identify. 

          Until now.

          Game-changing RCS Detection Technology

          Our new silica-specific monitoring technology is a game changer.

          By working with the authors of the APPG to share the features, benefits and thinking behind the new real-time silica monitoring technology they’ve been able to update the report with new advice on how to best protect workers from the dangers of respirable crystalline silica (RCS). 

          Image of Air XS Silica Monitor
          Air XS Silica Monitor

          Image of Air X software
          Air X software

          Book your demonstration today.

          Use the contact form below if you’d like to book your demonstration with one of our experts today.

          Or, get in touch with a local distributor to you if you’d like to book a demonstration.

           








            The Centre for Work Health and Safety launch the Air XS Silica Monitor in New South Wales

            After nine years in development, the world’s first real-time respirable crystalline silica (RCS) detector, the Air XS Silica Monitor, was launched in Australia for the very first time on 7 April 2022.

            The Centre for Work Health and Safety unveiled the product along with our Australian distributors Active Environmental Solutions (AES) to the Australian public at the Shellbourne Hotel in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW).

            World-first technology

            With guests from an array of industries including construction, tunnelling and mining, it was an event in which over 50 influences turned up to see the world’s first real-time silica monitor.

            As the cases of occupational silicosis caused by the inhalation of silica dust continue to grow in Australia, particularly in NSW, where 75 cases of silicosis have been recorded since 2020, the Air XS Silica Monitor has the potential to provide a solution to this problem.

            This was an opportunity for major influencers in their respected industries to see just why everyone is so excited about the Air XS Silica Monitor.

            The importance real-time silica monitoring

            The event started with an ‘acknowledgement of the country’ from the Centre for Work Health and Safety, demonstrating the issue of occupational silicosis in Australia and how important it is to accurately monitor for silica dust in real time.

            The Air XS Silica Monitor is a major technological advancement in monitoring for silica dust globally, and nowhere more so than in Australia. So much so that a rebate scheme has been put in place by the NSW government in order to urge companies to do more when it comes to safeguarding their employees against silica dust in the workplace.

            The rebate scheme means that all NSW businesses are eligible for $1,000 rebate refund at time of purchase of each Air XS unit, as well as potential small businesses in the area.

            With demonstrations now available for all businesses, not only in NSW, but across the whole of Australia, the incentive to ‘get real’ on silica monitoring has never been higher.

            A huge success

            After a full demonstration of the unit from Aleks Todorovic, Managing Director at AES, it was evident just how successful this could be in NSW, as well as a chance for individuals to see just how this device works, up close and personal in real time.

            Aleks added, ‘After the presentations, we were inundated with enquires and requests for demonstrations, so I have no doubt the Air XS Silica Monitor is going to be a huge success’.

            The launch of the Air XS Silica Monitor in NSW coincided with our UK launch at the Health and Safety Event at the NEC in Birmingham.

            The world’s first real-time silica monitor was also on show at Coverings 2022 Stone and Tile trade event at the Las Vegas Convention Centre in Nevada, USA.

            Start monitoring for silica dust today

            If you’re located in Australia, and wish to book a demonstration of the Air XS Silica Monitor,  you can do so directly with AES.

            However, if you’re in the UK or the rest of the world and want to learn more about the Air XS, then you can contact one of our experts using the contact form below.

             








              Air XS Silica Monitor recognised as ‘Highly Commended’ at the BSiF Awards 2022

              The world’s first real-time silica monitor, the Air XS Silica Monitor from Trolex, has been determined as ‘Highly Commended’ by the British Safety Industry Federation (BSiF) at their 2022 awards ceremony.

              With rising cases of occupational silicosis caused by the inhalation of silica dust, The Air XS Silica Monitor was recognised in the ‘Product Innovation’ category, for its improvement towards detecting respirable crystalline silica (RCS), as a truly innovative product.

              In esteemed company

              The BSiF Awards, in association with the Safety and Health Excellence Awards, took place on Wednesday 6 April 2022 at The Vox, NEC, Birmingham.

              Hosted by renowned actor and comedian Hugh Dennis, the awards recognised some of the most prestigious and respected companies within the health and safety industry across Britain.

              Three awards were presented by the BSiF to companies who are excelling in the health and safety industry; these awards were the Customer Services Awards, the Safety Solution Award and the Product Innovation Award, the latter of which the Air XS Silica Monitor had entered.

              A world-first innovative product

              The ‘Product Innovation’ category focuses on products that make a difference, and find new solutions to improving health and safety across a variety of industries and environments in Britain.

              Focusing on new and innovative technology used in developing these nominated products, this category was an opportunity for us to highlight the effect which real-time silica monitoring will have on improving health and safety in specific markets.

              Therefore, not only did being the world’s first real-time silica dust monitor on the market help us receive ‘Highly Commended’ recognition, but also the innovation and development of the product itself.

              Using optical refraction technology developed in-house by our engineering team and produced with the support of the Centre for Work Health and Safety, the Air XS Silica Monitor demonstrated the effort put in and the belief everyone connected to this product has on its potential.

              ‘Highly Commended’ recognition

              Our Managing Director, Steve Holland, claimed, “it was a privilege to stand up on behalf of Trolex at such an important event and this award is absolutely deserving to everyone here.” This award has highlighted the amount of work gone into this innovative product and the potential it has on the industry as a whole.

              “There is still lots of work ahead, but this undoubtedly begins a new era of growth, opportunity and excitement for the business” added Steve.

              The results of the BSiF Awards come at an exciting time, as Trolex were also announced as a finalist of the Better Society Awards for the Air XS Silica Monitor, in the ‘Tech for Good’ category, just weeks after winning the ‘Best Technology Award’ at The International Surface Event.

              The world’s first real-time RCS monitor

               The Air XS Silica Monitor has the potential to save millions of lives.

               To learn more about the world’s first real-time RCS monitor, book your demonstrations now or speak to one of experts today using the contact form below.








                Revolutionary smart devices to future-proof health and safety

                Protecting the health and safety of the people who work for you is the ethical thing to do. It also makes good business sense as your people are your greatest asset. 

                But even if you aren’t driven by a moral or financial imperative, governments around the world are toughening up on the legislation that protects workers, so it’s not something any business can afford to ignore. 

                While some threats are obvious, others are invisible and incredibly hard to accurately detect, such as the deadly silica dust that are the by-product of many industries and manufacturing processes.  

                Silica dust is linked with severe health problems. It has been dubbed the ‘new asbestos’ and has already been the subject of litigation. Yet it’s something that has historically been impossible to monitor in real time. 

                Our Construction Industry Health and Safety Survey Winter 2021 shows that employers are concerned about safety, with nine out of 10 respondents recognising that worker safety is important or very important. 

                But it also revealed that on the ground it can be hard to meet the health and safety challenge, particularly when it comes to dust monitoring, which for a fifth of respondents accounted for half of their safety budget. 

                This in-depth report looks at how real-time, wearable dust monitoring technology can help to solve the issues from the findings of the Construction Industry Health and Safety Survey Winter 2021. 

                The findings ultimately mean that it’s clear we need a new approach to dust monitoring. One that looks to the future and is inspired by the intelligent tech revolutionising every other aspect of our lives.  

                It’s time to act now to tackle danger of hazardous dusts, like silica dust, by investing in smarter solutions to protect the air we breathe, with real-time dust monitoring. 








                  Combatting occupational silicosis: This is personal

                  By Glyn Pierce-Jones – CEO of Trolex.

                  ***

                  What might seem like a nine-year journey to develop the Trolex Air XS Silica Monitor actually goes back 150 years. Our new real-time silica detection technology has surprising origins… 

                  It starts at a time when miners had next to no protection, especially from harmful silica dust, and to a place that ‘roofed the world’; Snowdonia’s beautiful, bleak, Blaenau Ffestiniog.

                  UNESCO Heritage status

                  Recently awarded UNESCO heritage status, it was here that my grandfathers, great grandfathers, uncles, and cousins all worked, mining slate. 

                  Arawn and Ieuan. Dai and Dewi. Merfyn and Maldwyn.

                  And it’s here that many of them died, often as young as in their 40s, from occupational silicosis.

                  No health and safety. No silica detection and prevention. No chance.

                  Personal and poignant

                  It makes the work we do at Trolex all the more personal and all the more poignant.

                  And it’s a major part of the reason we’ve worked so hard to solve the age-old problem of occupational silicosis. 

                  So that modern-day miners and quarry workers – in fact, anyone who might come into contact with silica in their working lives, from construction workers to plasterers, factory workers and stonemasons – will never have to suffer the same fate as my forefathers. 

                  A new hope

                  And all it took was vision and ingenuity, optimism and grit, and endless trips to the bank manager. And despite being told we’d never do it – we’ve done it.

                  New real-time dust monitoring technology that offers new hope to people who previously had no hope of avoiding an unnecessary, painful and premature end to their lives caused by occupational lung diseases.

                  It’s called the Air XS Silica Monitor

                  And it’s astonishing.

                  The world’s first real-time silica detection technology saving lives all over the world – made of legends.

                  As they used to say in the back bar at the Miners Inn in Blaenau…

                  Dyma i chi fechgyn!*

                  Drop me a line and I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Air XS Silica Monitor and the many ways it can benefit your staff and your business.

                  *Here’s to you, boys!








                    Bringing solutions to combat fraud within the construction industry

                    Fraud within the construction industry is nothing new. In fact, it’s getting worse.

                    After news emerged of two construction skills’ test administrators being jailed for fraud, the evidence suggests that it’s too easy to cut corners in construction health and safety.

                    A growing problem for the construction industry

                    In a 2019 report by Construction News, it was found that the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) were to review 2,500 safety tests after several arrests were made for fraudulent construction testing.

                    Further reports in November 2020 stated that a ‘crackdown on fraud in construction testing’ would be taking place to prevent further crimes. It looked as though fraudulent activity within construction was being treated with the severity it deserved.

                    However, recent news shows that cases of fraud are still occurring frequently. Most notably, in late-February of this year, two construction skills test administrators were jailed for 28 months after pleading guilty to falsifying CITB health and safety checks for personal profit.

                    The pair from Knutsford, Cheshire, were said to be profiting around £37,700 by creating fake health and safety tests and supplying fake Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) cards to workers, almost three years after the CITB first announced their review.

                    Adam Kingsgate, Assistant Director of Fraud Investigation Service for the HRMC, affirmed in 2020 that the “HMRC is committed to taking action on all those who steal from the public purse.

                    This highlights that whilst action is being taken to reprimand fraud within the construction industry, the problem is not being stopped at its root, which, in turn, means there are potentially thousands of workers exposed to the risk of poor health and safety training.

                    Is the problem being taken seriously?

                    In the most recent case in Knutsford, it is estimated that 1,305 fake CSCS cards dating back to January 2020 had been revoked. That’s 1,305 incidents in which construction workers are exposed to a variety of health and safety risks they haven’t properly been prepared for.

                    The requirements for an approved training organisation’s documentation from the CTID, which certifies the legitimacy for testing, was last revised in February 2020, meaning the application process hasn’t been tightened or changed since the HMRC’s promise in November 2020.

                    This unfortunately shows that although there are some guidelines in place, which try to prevent fraud from occurring, priority for workers health and safety does not seem to be treated as important as they say it should be, in reality.

                    If fraudsters are able to bypass the regulations currently in place, then it is likely that these events will continue.

                    So, what can be done to stop this?

                    Workplace health and safety that can’t be cheated…

                    There’s a simple way to improve matters. Reliable and accurate health and safety testing that cannot be cheated.

                    Although in this instance the issue lies within testing, it is evident the overall problem runs deeper throughout the whole construction industry, and this is a worry when people’s lives are potentially at stake.

                    Making health and safety testing and equipment accurate, reliable, safe and trustworthy is difficult to achieve, especially when policies do not help to drive home this message.

                    We have found this countless times in our research and development for particulate monitoring and silica dust in particular over the last eight years.

                    Current particulate monitoring policies rely on collecting, for example, silica particulates on a filter, then transporting this to a lab to analyse. How do you know that all the silica dust collected stays on the filter for an accurate result? You don’t unfortunately.

                    The standard guidelines state, ‘The best method of transportation is by using a reliable person who is aware of the need for care.’, yet this is something that can’t be measured.

                    However, now, Trolex has the technology to provide on-site, digital, real-time silica dust monitoring with our new product, the Air XS Silica Monitor, taking numerous inaccuracies like this out of the equation providing health and safety provisions which cannot be cheated.

                    Health and safety should never be about guesswork, or inaccurate methods of measurements, nor should it be put second best to profitability or personal gain.

                    Trolex real-time particulate monitors

                    It’s time to get real on using real-time dust monitoring to reduce occupational lung diseases with the Air XD Dust Monitor and the XD One Personal Dust Monitor, and launching next month, the Air XS Silica Monitor.