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.
Aggregate and mineral processing
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.
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.
Trolex are excited to be partnered with Active Environmental Solutions (AES), working together to protect workers from the dangerous and often irreversible consequences of occupational lung diseases caused by dust inhalation.
With AES’s 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.
AES want to spread awareness of the dangers of occupational lung diseases caused by dust inhalation. And in the case of dust monitoring, spreading awareness that new real-time dust monitoring technology to help prevent lethal occupational 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 using 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 Dust Monitor, the XD One Personal Dust Monitor and most recently, the Air XS Silica Monitor.
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 industries, where workers are exposed to dangerous forms of respirable dusts.
This common goal of providing and expert knowledge and specialist equipment to these industries is the drive needed to inevitably reduce instances of occupational lung diseases to save lives.
Now, this collaboration will help to do exactly that.
The approach taken by businesses within these industries must now change. With new legislation on exposure to harmful dust 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 dusts can have on people’s long-term health.”
“That’s why we’re invested in the success and distribution of new and effective real-time dust monitoring technologies such as the Trolex Air XD Dust Monitor, the XD One Personal Dust Monitor and the Air XS Silica Monitor. These are lifesaving technologies that need to be included in their safety thinking” stated Aleks further.
By using Trolex’s advanced dust monitoring technologies, small changes can have a huge impact.
As the war on silica dust grows ever stronger by the day, more needs to be done.
With the reduction in exposure limits coming into effect across Australia, particularly hard on respirable crystalline silica (RCS), real-time monitoring for silica dust is a necessity, retaining live data and providing an instant alarm the legislated threshold is breached.
Whilst the ability to retrospectively assess levels of silica dust in facilities is available to industries where deadly silica dust is prevalent, the ability to monitor for silica dust 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 world’s 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 Work Health and Safety 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.
If you’d like to speak to one of our experts about integrating real-time dust monitoring technology into your working environment, then you can use the contact form below to get in touch with one of our experts today.
Reactec have been specialists in workplace health and safety environments for more than 15 years. Originally focusing on the damaging effects of exposure to vibration, they soon discovered that the most effective way of mitigating workplace risk lies in gathering as much data as possible.
As CEO Jacqui McLaughlin explains, “The traditional approach to health and safety that says ‘I can think about a problem, do a risk assessment and as a consequence of that assessment I can make it safe for people’, we prefer to go one step further and engineer out problems.
If we can measure what’s actually happening in the way of risk, then we can make workplaces a safer place to be.”
Starting with wearable dust monitoring technology to measure vibration, Jacqui and her team quickly realised that the data management, hosting and reporting they provided their clients, was a powerful health and safety tool that could also be usefully applied to other workplace risks.
Rather than try to create new technology to measure a variety of risks, Reactec started to look for partners. Experts in their respective risk fields, whose work could be complemented by their data management technology.
“We see Trolex as a leading expert in how to measure dust and what we’re doing is providing a platform that makes the dust data they collect easy to access and meaningful.
We’re turning their data into meaning.”
“We take the data associated with a process so that your records don’t just look like a bunch of numbers, but they tell you about who was doing what and where. And as you build up more data, you can get more intelligence in terms of process and people and where you need to put in your biggest efforts to get safer environments.”
With new dashboard integration and development soon to be rolled out to a live Trolex XD One Personal Dust Monitor client, things are moving fast.
Complementary technology that gives the simple to use and easy to integrate Trolex XD One Personal Dust Monitor, and Reactec a fast-track route into the world of actionable dust monitoring intelligence.
“And there’s an overlay angle,” says Jacqui.
“With our tech we get information on vibration. We have other tech that gives us information on noise. And if you start overlaying all of that data with dust data and also situational location information, you can create a health risk passport for an individual or a site. It’s the very start of an exciting journey that will provide more and more useful data as clients understand what they can do with the data over time.”
Reactec and Trolex; a marriage made in data and a powerful collaboration that looks set to flourish in the future. Plans are already afoot to take things to the next level with new bluetooth, IoT data recording and cloud-based analytics.
For more information on how you can get the most insightful analysis on your worker health and safety, contact us today by using the form below.
Based in Salford, M&E contractor Thermatic Homes has more than 70 electricians out in the field rewiring properties for social housing providers including The Wates Group, Unitas, Brunswick Regeneration and Bolton at Home. As an ex-electrician himself, Thermatic MD Karl Wallace is aware of the dust challenges their work creates.
“There are a lot of issues created by dust,” he says. “Chasing through to the brickwork and masonry is extremely intrusive and there’s a huge amount of dust created. We’re conscious that it’s potentially a dangerous environment if not controlled properly.”
Which is why Thermatic electricians always use dust extraction on their CHASE machines. Why they always wear dust masks, always screen doors and why they always hoover, clean, and spray the air with water.
Unlike a traditional building site, it’s not possible to saturate the air in people’s homes with water.
“It’s never ideal,” says Karl, “and being an ex–electrician myself, who’s rewired many a house, you always want to do more. Year on year as more information comes out about the harmful effects of dust, we’re increasingly aware of the dangers and want to do everything we can to prevent them.”
Which is why, when Karl was introduced to the XD One by Trolex MD Steve Holland, he was so keen to get it out on site to trial for dust detection. “What a wonderful idea!” says Karl. “It looks perfect.”
After all, what better way to instantly identify the dust threat than with accurate, real-time dust monitoring and readings? Even better that they’re available on wearable devices his team can just clip on as they work.
A real-time reading of the room designed not just to protect Thermatic workers but also to gain a clear understanding on dust levels that might impact on customers, too.
As important as the XD One is in protecting workers and tenants, using it also sends a very clear message to the industry, not just from Thermatic, but also from the main contractors Thermatic work for.
Very much a ‘we go above and beyond’ message, any main contractor can be rightly proud to do their bit in helping to prevent the 12,000 deaths a year from workplace respiratory disease by using Thermatic and Trolex XD One real-time particulate monitoring.
It’s a pioneering approach in the construction industry that really prioritises health and safety and makes clear the commitment to worker and customer safety.
With the XD One now onsite as part of a pilot phase to monitor rewiring and upgrade projects, we’ll be reporting back very soon.
Says Karl, “I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of data the XD One gives us, the degree of harm it detects and what we can do about it.”
In the meantime if you want any more information on how the XD One can keep your workers and customers safe from the dangers of avoidable dust and particulate inhalation get in touch today.