Silica isn’t the new asbestos

It’s been said hundreds of times…

Silica is the new asbestos.

But what if it’s not? What if there’s really nothing new about silica in relation to asbestos?

The link between the two is even closer than you may think.

What really is asbestos?

Most people know asbestos as the dangerous insulator used in construction, responsible for over 5,000 related disease-deaths per year, typically lung cancer and asbestosis.

However, in its natural form, asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral.

Put simply, silicate minerals make up asbestos fibres.

Asbestos is actually just one of the many different forms of silicate materials, in the same way that silica is.

The similarities between silica and asbestos are much closer than people are aware of.

SO WHAT?

There is a different attitude towards asbestos compared to silica.

The dangers of exposure to asbestos are well documented.

Exposure to asbestos can cause serious lung conditions, including asbestosis and mesothelioma. It is the number 1 cause of recorded work-related deaths in the world.

Most people in the UK are aware of its dangers, particularly as asbestos was banned in 1999 for construction work in the UK.

Yet despite all of this, very few people are aware of how dangerous exposure to silica dust is, despite the fact that asbestos fibres are made up of silicate materials, in the same way silica is.

There are many more dangers relating to silica than people may be aware of.

Let’s put this into perspective

Imagine you are working on refurbishing your bathroom and from the grinding of the ceramic sink and a load of dust becomes airborne.

If you were told that this airborne dust which you were inevitably inhaling was asbestos, you’d probably run a mile. Right?

And who could blame you? A dust which is responsible for approximately 90,000 asbestos-related diseases per year. You’d want to get as far away from it as possible.

Well, it’s likely that that dust in your bathroom would in fact be silica dust.

A dust which made up of silicate materials in the same way asbestos fibres are. A dust which is just as lethal, if not more lethal, in comparison to asbestos dust.

But because it isn’t known to people as being the same as asbestos, the dangers seem to be less of a concern to people.

The issue is much wider than this…

It’s time to get real and become aware of just how dangerous silica dust is.

It is reported that, in crystalline form, respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is responsible for the death of 600 people per year in Great Britain with 450 of those to workers in construction industry.

The importance of the dangers of silica must be realised, especially with what is known about how dangerous asbestos is.

Don’t let history repeat itself

Asbestos is just as lethal as silica. The dangers are the same, yet we cannot afford for the results of silica exposure to be the same as what occurred with asbestos.

Silica could be as lethal as asbestos, if not more so, with equally serious consequences.

Being aware of the issue is the start, action must be taken to protect workers from this dangerous dust.

We cannot afford to let history repeat itself.

Let’s get real on silica.







    Staggering Lung Disease Statistics Prompt £5,000,000 Investment

    New studies from charity ‘Asthma and Lung UK’ (ALUK) found that lung disease deaths in the UK are the highest in Western Europe.

    The staggering statistics have prompted an expanded approach towards research and development of lung diseases from ALUK.

     

    Serious Statistics

    ALUK’s studies show that cases of lung disease related deaths in the UK have been rising in the past 20 years.

    It is reported that 500,000 people in the UK died from deaths relating to lung diseases over a seven-year period.

    In 2018 alone, 84,721 respiratory deaths were recorded in the UK.

    The charity has described the state of lung health in the UK as ‘shameful’, stating the need for improved research and development solutions to the problem.

    More than just numbers

    After it’s relaunch in February, ALUK established a new 5-year strategy upon the results of the study.

    Lung diseases are currently the third most common cause of death in the UK and it’s currently costing the NHS £9 billion every year.

    Despite this, lung related health care is receiving less than 2% of public funding.

    Dispelling the misconceptions

    The seriousness of lung problems in relation to other diseases is not taken as seriously.

    A predominant factor in the poor state of the nation’s lung health is that people believe lung conditions aren’t life-threatening. This is a major misconception.

    Through spreading awareness of how ‘shameful’ lung health is in the UK, this misconception can be dispelled.

    ALUK aim to reduce lung disease deaths by 20% by 2027. When making everyone aware of these staggering statistics, this can become a possibility.

    The end goal is to provide support for everyone effected by all forms of lung disease.

    Research and innovation as a solution

    ALUK’s solution to achieving this goal is through research and innovation.

    Their aim is to expand their research and innovation programme so that £5 million is being invested into relevant research each year.

    With the aim to develop at least three new self-management tools” for 2 million people suffering with lung diseases, ALUK want to make training programmes and essential advice easily accessible to those who need it.

    “By 2027, we will give 80% of people with lung conditions the opportunity to access our network of Breathe Easy support groups” states the ALUK Strategy to 2027.

    With this, the strain on public healthcare is minimised and individuals are able to monitor their personal health through digitalised platforms and shared networks.

    Looking to the future…

    The statistics right now make for harrowing reading and harsh truths.

    However, for ALUK, research and innovation is the solution for the future. By identifying the problem and acknowledging its severity and scale, goals can be achieved.

    Through effective research and innovation lung disease deaths can become a thing of the past, not just in the UK, but worldwide.

    Staggering Lung Disease Statistics Prompt £5,000,000 Investment

    New studies from charity ‘Asthma and Lung UK’ (ALUK) found that lung disease deaths in the UK are the highest in Western Europe.

    The staggering statistics have prompted an expanded approach towards research and development of lung diseases from ALUK.

     

    Inclusion culture

    Unfortunately, the Trolex model of an inclusion culture, isn’t practiced in every other ‘traditionally male’ company, which is why IWD and WICW campaigns globally to bring awareness to all women who are doing a great job, despite what that industry may be.

    No one can deny that stereotypes are still affecting society in the UK and in other western countries.

    A survey by CPB London ahead of IWD in 2022, found that,

    “39% of the 5- to 11-year-olds polled think that women should stay home and 38% agreed that men should go to work”.

    Breaking the bias

    The CPB began their “Imagine” nationwide campaign on IWD and this year’s theme is #BreakTheBias.

    This campaign has gained global appeal and invites people to imagine a person in a certain role, for example, ‘a doctor’ ‘a nurse’ ‘a plumber’ or ‘a CEO’, and then invites you to ask, is this a man or a woman?

    It creates a powerful message, especially when, in the CPB survey of 1000 children;

    60% thought that being a plumber or an electrician was a man’s job and almost half (46%) said that men always make better engineers.”

    A sobering thought that children still have this impression of certain roles in 2022.

    Research and innovation as a solution

    ALUK’s solution to achieving this goal is through research and innovation.

    Their aim is to expand their research and innovation programme so that £5 million is being invested into relevant research each year.

    With the aim to develop at least three new self-management tools” for 2 million people suffering with lung diseases, ALUK want to make training programmes and essential advice easily accessible to those who need it.

    “By 2027, we will give 80% of people with lung conditions the opportunity to access our network of Breathe Easy support groups” states the ALUK Strategy to 2027.

    With this, the strain on public healthcare is minimised and individuals are able to monitor their personal health through digitalised platforms and shared networks.

    A common goal for the construction industry

    Trolex are excited to be partnered with Active Environmental Solutions (AES), working together to protect workers from the dangerous and often irreversible consequences of dust inhalation.

    With AES’ specialist knowledge of occupational health and safety in Australian industries and Trolex’s leading safety technology, the opportunity of delivering solutions to prevent the dangers of dust inhalation for Australian workers, is not just a possibility, but now a reality.

    Offering the market new solutions

    AES want to spread awareness. And in the case of dust particulate detection, spreading awareness that new real-time technology to help prevent lethal respiratory diseases now exists.

    The opportunity to partner with Trolex was welcomed by AES, as it means that they can merge their expertise in Occupational Health with Trolex’s leading safety technology.

    This creates the best solutions to their respective industries.

    This simple message appealed to AES, and to Aleks Todorovic MSc, (OHP), Managing Director of AES’s team of Australian Occupational Safety experts at AES, as it aligned perfectly with the workers they seek to protect:

    Many businesses intuitively know the benefit of a broad threat detection – they just don’t know they know it, or perhaps how they go about implementing such devices – it’s our job to awaken that knowledge and show them there are new and effective dust detection technologies such as the Trolex Air XD and XD One.

    Important facts for important industries

    There are no arm twisting, or heavy sales techniques involved – just a clear and simple presentation of responding to the facts.

    Which is why Trolex and AES are working hard to provide further education to Australia’s mining, tunnelling, quarrying and construction industry, where workers are exposed to dangerous dust particulates.

    This common goal of providing specialist and expert knowledge of these industries is the drive needed to inevitably save lives and taking the dangers of dust seriously.

    Now, this collaboration will help to do exactly that.

    A needed change of approach

    The approach taken by businesses within these industries must now change. With new legislation on exposure to harmful particulates in Australia, new dust monitoring methods are needing to be implemented.

    Aleks said “As an occupational hygiene minded business we know only too well the devastating effects inhaling respirable dust can have on people’s long-term health.

    That’s why we are invested in the success and distribution of new and effective real-time dust detection technologies such as the Trolex Air XD and XD One. These are lifesaving technologies that need to be included in their safety thinking” stated Aleks further.

    By using Trolex’s advanced dust monitoring technology, small changes can have a huge impact.

    Looking towards the future

    The war on silica grows ever stronger by the day and more needs to be done.

    With the reduction in exposure limits coming into effect across Australia, particularly hard on respirable crystalline silica, real-time monitoring for RCS is a necessity, providing an instant alarm if you have an issue.

    Whilst the ability to retrospectively assess RCS levels in facilities is available to industries with an RCS problem, the ability to monitor for RCS in real-time is not.

    Trolex’s all new real-time silica monitor, the Air XS, allows for accurate and reliable results demonstrating compliance with legislation. Aleks commented on this world-first technology:

    We are really excited to be a part of this project to be able to detect silica in real-time. This will be the first monitor to have this capability and we’re proud to be distributing it throughout Australia. The project was produced with the support of the Centre for WHS in NSW proving just how important and potentially life-saving the new technology will be.”

    And with the talk of real-time, wearable silica monitoring devices a possibility in the future, of course it makes perfect sense for all industries to be increasingly focused on detection possibilities.

    Together, Trolex and AES are providing real solutions for real problems in Australia.

    Is technology part of the solution to mental health issues in construction?

    The capricious nature of the construction industry makes it an incredibly unpredictable and stressful place for many workers and in recent times, the uncertainties around potential lockdowns and national restrictions have only added to this unpredictability.

    The industry is in desperate need of solutions to help combat this increased stress, and one area with great potential for improving the general mental wellbeing of workers is the recent advancement in technology use within their industry.

    A survey conducted in 2021 by Constructing Excellence Southwest (CESW) showed that 62% of people working in construction were concerned about feeling stressed, with a further statistic suggesting male construction workers are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male.

    With increased workloads, due to a backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the amount of complex project completion within short timeframes has increased, along with the risk of injuries and harm, causing more stress and unrest both in and out of the workplace.

    Regardless, development in recent technology aims to alleviate some of the problems that construction workers are facing.

    One advancement since the pandemic was an improvement in cloud-based communication. Projects can now be worked on collaboratively without the need to be on-site with shared access to documents and important information available remotely via online access. This allows for work to progress even with a backlog, reducing worker’s concern over having to be on-site to complete a task.

    This isn’t the only progression for technology within the industry. Ownminder, an app set up by a collaboration of industry experts and personnel, provides strategies to support and provide advice for the mental health of construction workers. The app is available 24 hours a day and is accessible anywhere, meaning workers have support for their mental health wherever they are.

    The stigma around mental health within the construction industry is still rife, so the opportunity to access mental health support anytime, anywhere is essential. Ownminder provides an alternative for workers who are not comfortable in talking to their superior, in relation to such issues. Again, relieving some of the stress and stigma.

    Whether the technology helps the worker directly, via an app, or technology which allows them to work remotely, progress is being made. The security for workers of both being able to complete tasks regardless of accessibility to sites, as well as knowing they have support for their mental health, is a massive step forward for the industry.

    “Ultimately, technology can relieve many pressures in a matter of minutes, if companies are willing to embrace it” states Steven McMenzie of Ed Controls UK. New technology within the construction industry has been somewhat overlooked, but now it seems there is a positive effect which it can have on the wellbeing of the industry.

    Thanks to the development of such technologies during the pandemic, efficiency seems to be improving and the industry is looking forward when it comes to new technology, not backwards.

    This of course benefits a company like Trolex, as now more than ever, health and safety technology is being taken seriously.

    Not only are solutions being found to support the mental health of workers, but productivity is increasing overall, as well as collaboration and the reduction of risk. The effect which technology is having on the construction industry both mentally and physically on the construction industry should not be underestimated.

    If you would like to read more about the psychological aspect of workers related to health and safety, please read more here.