Using real-time silica monitoring technology to combat occupational silicosis

The AIR XS Silica Monitor leverages cutting-edge Optical Refraction Technology (ORT) to enhance workplace safety by providing real-time monitoring of respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Unlike traditional particle monitors, AIR XS distinguishes and measures RCS content, enabling immediate detection and response to harmful silica dust levels. This technology is crucial in combating occupational lung diseases such as silicosis, which affects millions of workers globally.

Current monitoring methods, like gravimetric sampling, are time-consuming and often deliver results too late to prevent exposure. In contrast, real-time silica monitoring offers immediate data, significantly reducing the risk of occupational silicosis by enabling prompt action to mitigate hazardous conditions. The importance of such real-time data is highlighted by cases like Joanna McNeill’s, who developed silicosis at the age of just 36. Her story, like many others underscores the necessity for continuous monitoring to protect workers from the threat of silicosis, regardless of their occupational environment.

Our real-time RCS monitor, AIR XS provides a real-time solution to this threat. Workers are not only alarmed and alerted when silica levels exceed legislative limits but can work to best practices by implementing AIR XS with the Hierarchy of Controls, supporting proactive measures to eliminate or minimise exposure to RCS. This move to real-time monitoring as a solution to the threat of silicosis has also been noticed by governing bodies, like the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Respiratory Health.

To learn more about how this real-time solution not only enhances worker safety but also streamlines business operations, click the link below to read the case study in full.

New testing proves efficacy of real-time silica monitor that could save thousands of lives

New test findings released, confirm the efficacy of a world-first real-time monitor for silica dust, which represents a revolution in the protection for workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust.  

As a leading workplace safety technology company, we have developed the AIR XS Silica Monitor, designed to protect workers against lung diseases such as silicosis by providing real-time readings of levels of crystalline silica in the air.  

We have recently commissioned a leading occupational hygiene and laboratory testing organisation to conduct independent testing of the AIR XS. The results show the AIR XS repeatedly provided consistent, accurate, real-time data throughout an eight-hour testing period.  

The testing demonstrates that AIR XS can improve worker safety by providing instant information to businesses and workers exposed to RCS, instead of having to wait up to four weeks to know their level of exposure to this killer dust, which is the current industry standard.  

While the Australian Government recently implemented a ban on engineered stone, commencing 1 July 2024, the process most synonymous with creating silica dust, Group CEO Glyn Pierce-Jones said this ban alone would not solve the current health crisis caused by RCS.  

“Silica dust is found in most building materials, so while banning engineered stone is a positive step, it’s not a holistic solution. The real issue facing the industry is the current archaic methods of testing for silica dust and the delay it causes in creating the safest possible workplace.” 

The AIR XS is already being used in Australia to monitor RCS levels in many industrial locations. 

Silica occurs naturally in soil, sand and granite; however, it is almost harmless in that state. Once those materials have been disturbed through construction or mining, silica dust is generated and can be inhaled into the lungs. This dust can cause silicosis, and other types of lung diseases and cancer, which are often irreversible and progressive. 

Recent research from The Lung Foundation showed an estimated 600,000 Australian workers and between 40-50 million workers worldwide are exposed to silica dust across a wide range of industries including quarrying, construction, tunnelling, mining and many manufacturing processes. 

The current approach to test for RCS is gravimetric sampling, the process requires collection, processing, and laboratory analysis of the sample, which is both time-consuming and costly for businesses. Direct-reading instruments offer businesses the ability to monitor employee safety on sites in real-time, eliminating the delays of weeks typically associated with potential RCS exposure. 

Mr Pierce-Jones emphasised the urgent need for enhanced safety measures for anyone who may be in contact with silica.   

“The current testing methodology for RCS only allows users to take an average reading over an eight-hour period and typically takes up to four weeks to produce a result,” Mr Pierce-Jones said. 

“Our AIR XS Silica Monitor was designed to provide an accurate reading with immediate results, letting workers know when their health is in danger and allowing employers to respond in the most efficient manner.” 

“These latest test results are another indicator of what we already knew at Trolex – that the AIR XS could be part of a desperately needed solution to an urgent health crisis.”  

Request the full testing report

You can request the full independent AIR XS testing report by following the link below.

Global efforts to combat silica dust exposure in the workplace

It’s estimated that over 40 million people worldwide are exposed to silica dust in the workplace. Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) contributes to one of the leading causes of death in the workplace, alongside other lung related illnesses. Due to this some of the industry’s most influential countries worldwide are making significant changes to regulations regarding silica exposure in the workplace. 

In December 2023, Australia became the first country in the world to ban engineered stone due to rising cases of silicosis. From 1st July 2024, all use of engineered stone in Australia will be prohibited to protect workers from exposure to RCS in the workplace. Engineered stone is a manufactured material made from combining quartz or granite aggregates with resins and pigment and is a common material used in stone bench tops, often found in kitchens and bathrooms. It’s production often results in airborne RCS, leading to significant health risks to those working with it. 

With reports that over half a million Australians are exposed to fine silica dust through stonemasonry and construction, figures suggest 103,000 of these workers are likely to be diagnosed with silicosis. The production and manufacturing of stone bench tops is a significant contributor to these statistics. The ban on engineered stone across the entirety of Australia is a step in the right direction to reduce the number of workers exposed to RCS and silicosis diagnosis in the future. 

This ruling in Australia looks to have a set a precedent in influencing other countries to do the same. In May 2024, the first cases of silicosis linked to artificial stone countertops in the UK were reported, leading to calls for the material to be banned.

An estimated 600,000 workers are exposed to silica in the UK each year, and in Europe as a whole, 81% of those exposed are employed in construction or in manufacturing products used in the industry. After Australia became the first country worldwide to ban engineered stone in December 2023, UK kitchen company Herringbone announced they would also ban the sale of high-silica quartz worktop due to the risks posed to stonemasons. 

Since speaking with their stonemasons about the risk of high quartz in engineered stone, Herringbone made the decision to become the first company in the UK to phase out the sale and production of engineered stone, as well as creating a petition to have the product completely banned in the UK, like in Australia. 

 

In the US, the Biden administration has agreed to limit workers exposure to silica dust in mining, particularly when drilling for coal, ore and completing other mining operations. In April 2024, a ruling was announced to reduce the allowable silica dust levels in mining operations to 50 micrograms per cubic meter, with an action level at 25 micrograms, for an eight-hour workday. 

The ruling will also update any respiratory protection standards for mining workers and in addition to silica dust, will also apply to diesel particulate matter and asbestos. The hope is that this will begin to reduce an estimated 1,067 deaths and 3,746 silica related illnesses in mining industries in the US and begin to make mining safer from the risk of RCS for the 55,000 American coal miners across the nation. The rule will come into action one year after its publication in April 2024. 

With significant action being taken across major industries worldwide as of mid-2024 and onwards, protection for workers against respirable crystalline silica is becoming more of a high priority in workplaces. With banning of products known to produce dangerous levels of RCS, and with rule changes to limit exposure, workers short- and long-term lung health is becoming better protected than ever. 

Real-time silica dust monitoring

Want to learn more about real-time monitoring for RCS in the workplace?

How XD1+ is integrated with the Reactec Ecosystem

We’re excited to bring to the market our XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor as a connected dust monitor with the Reactec Ecosystem.

The Reactec Ecosystem for workplace exposure to hazards includes an IoT gateway, Reactec’s workplace wearable RASOR for secure data transmission, an RFID identity card to personalise the collected dust data and the cloud-based Reactec Analytics software for informative and automatic data dissemination.

RASOR is a communications gateway with integrated SIM and GPS technology to gather data seamlessly from the XD1+ and present it live, personalised and position tracked data to remote line managers via a browser.

Our XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor can be easily connected with RASOR in two different modes for both single worker use and for pairing a number of XD1+   devices to a RASOR connected in hub mode, allowing for flexibility when working, but still providing vital information of worker exposure which can be analysed and interrogated on Reactec’s Analytics platform.

By leveraging revolutionary real-time personal monitoring technology with location tracking, automatic data collection and powerful data analytics, employers can now control their worker’s exposure to harmful respirable dust like never before and reduce these occupational diseases thanks to connected XD1+ and Reactec Ecosystem.

Our guide below details the key modes of pairing XD1+ with Reactec’s Ecosystem, a run-through of how to connect your XD1+ in these different modes and the benefits of each type of connectivity.

British stone manufacturers introduce real-time dust monitoring technology trial across workforce

A manufacturer of prestigious natural stone, Burlington Stone have quarried for over 200 years across the English Lake District, extracting and crafting a diverse range of signature British natural slate and stone products.

Individuals across their workforce are often exposed to hazardous substances, most notably airborne dust, including silica dust. Burlington Stone trialed two XD1+ devices on their site for a month to see how real-time, personal dust monitoring would improve their safety processes.

After the trial, we spoke to Health and Safety Manager, Peter Walker, about the success of the trial and some of the major benefits which Burlington Stone’s workforce found deploying XD1+ Personal Dust Monitors in their day-to-day processes.

You can read the full case study below.

AIR XS Silica Monitor deployed to monitor RCS levels during replacement of rail track

Our AIR XS Silica Monitor, an innovative real-time respirable silica (RCS) monitoring device, has been deployed at a major railway operations project to monitor the levels of RCS which workers may be exposed to.

The Central Rail Systems Alliance (CRSA), an alliance between Network Rail, Balfour Beatty, AtkinsRéalis and TSO have been using an AIR XS unit to monitor the levels of RCS released when damaged rail tracks are replaced; when rail track is damaged or needs replacing, the ballast surrounding the track is disturbed and can release RCS. The AIR XS unit was supplied by our UK partners Sunbelt UK & Ireland.

The challenge faced by CRSA was to measure the level of RCS and accompanying dust being released into the atmosphere during the unearthing process of 425m rail and ascertain the level of risk associated for those working in the immediate and surrounding environments. The AIR XS unit was manoeuvred around the site in-line with project progress, so that working scenarios can be accurately represented in the data set.

Upon conclusion of the project, Madeline Dunn, the Health and Safety Advisor for CRSA praised the monitoring and recording capabilities of the AIR XS, saying “We have completed trials prior, however this is the only unit where it is measuring silica and not just general dust levels. We gained the knowledge that the exposure levels were actually higher than we anticipated with even low-level ballast disturbance.”

Thanks to the team at Sunbelt Rentals UK & Ireland for the in-depth case study which you can read in full here.

Connected partner solutions to elevate your personal,
real-time dust monitoring

The connected XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor and Reactec cloud-based analytics platform has arrived. The Reactec Analytics platform brings exposure data from the XD1+ to life by delivering real-time updates from individual workers and tracking respirable data to determine where the highest concentration of harmful dust exists in your workplace.

With no filters, pumps, tubes, or replaceable parts, the XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor is one of the most compact, lightweight, and easy-to-use real-time personal dust monitors on the market. For such an accurate and reliable unit, it is also essential to be able to access and easily understand the data which the XD1+ is picking up, minute by minute.

Reactec’s cloud-based analytics platform brings XD1+ exposure data to life by delivering real-time updates from individual workers to remote supervisors, whilst tracking respirable data, to determine where the highest concentration of dust exists in your workplace.

With the support of Reactec’s ecosystem, the XD1+ is transformed into a connected, personalised dust monitoring device that shares invaluable data insight to key stakeholders and figureheads. The XD1+ is integrated into the Reactec ecosystem using the Reactec RASOR device as an IoT Gateway to Reactec’s powerful Analytics software.

By simply connecting your XD1+ unit to the Reactec Analytics platform you are able to:

  • Remove guesswork with accurate and real-time dust monitoring.
  • Personalise dust monitoring against specific workers with the Reactec RASOR device.
  • Identify the source and location of exposure and prioritise high risk areas.
  • GDPR compliant management of personal risk data.
  • Review tailored risk reports, add interventions and assess control measures.
  • Manage multiple health risks (dust, noise, vibration, proximity hazards) on a single platform.

 

If you want to find out more about how XD1+ can help keep your workers safe from harmful dust in the workplace, get in touch today to speak to one of our experts.

 

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AIR XS Silica Monitor: Not just another particle counter

Launched in 2022, the AIR XS Silica Monitor isn’t like other silica monitors on the market. If you’ve been in the Health and Safety space, it’s likely you’ll know about Optical Particle Counter (OPC), also known as “light-scattering”; but our patented AIR XS isn’t just another OPC.

Unlike traditional Optical Particle Counters (OPCs) that rely on light scattering and interruptions to deduce particle size and quantity, the patented Optical Refraction Technology (ORT) used in the AIR XS shines a laser through each particle, capturing its refraction on multiple sensors.

In our blog below, we reference Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon to explain one way to how ORT works. It’s not exact by any means but the refraction of the light coming out of the prism shows an example of how light refracts, similar to a crystalline particle.

Get in touch

If you’d like a more in-depth look at how real-time data can contribute to reducing instances of occupational silicosis, then be sure to check out check out our white paper: How real-time data could be the beginning of the end for occupational silicosis.

Otherwise, if you operate in challenging environments where you know RCS is present, and want to protect your workforce, then you can get in touch to request a demonstration with one of our experts or find a local approved distributor.

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 Portable Dust Monitor, XD1+ 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). 

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Book your demonstration today.

Get in touch today to request a demonstration with one of our experts, or find a local distributor to arrange a demonstration with them.

 

AIR XS Silica Monitor launches 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.

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 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 = is going to be a huge success’.

The launch of the AIR XS 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 get in touch with one of our experts today.