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: 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.

How real-time data could be the beginning of the end for occupational silicosis

Silicosis is now the most common occupational lung disease in the world, with silica dust described as ‘the new asbestos’ due to the extreme threat it poses to human health.  

Silica dust (respirable crystalline silica (RCS)) is extremely harmful to human health due to its physical and biological properties. 

It affects around 50,000,000 workers in a wide variety of industries all around the world and prolonged exposure leads to silicosis and a wide range of other diseases, most of which are untreatable and often lead to long-term disability and/or death.  

The potential for harm is even worse than that when you consider that asbestos is one of many different silica compounds and silica is the most proliferate mineral on earth; present in bricks, sand, stone, concrete, glass, cement and many other construction and building materials. 99% of deaths in occupational settings, are caused by the inhalation of dangerous particulates, with the other significant factor in this statistic being the extreme difficulty in monitoring in real-time for these killer particulates 

It has never been possible to reliably detect and distinguish silica dust in real time in the real-world settings in which workers are exposed to it – until now. 

The white paper looks at the background of silica exposure, the current methodologies employed to monitor it and the new technological advancement that has led to the development of a field-ready product for the first time in history. 

Legislated limits of exposure have been tightening up in most major economies as the harm being caused becomes known, but reductions in limits and the implementation of these limits have been hampered by the lack of real-time accurate and reliable monitoring capability. 

This technology has the potential to change the way industry, governments, businesses and workers themselves respond to the threat of RCS exposure in the workplace, and as such, it can be the beginning of the end for occupational silicosis. Not only does it improve health and safety outcomes for frontline workers, but it also reduces costs for businesses whilst giving them back control over their working environment. 

Perhaps most importantly of all, it gives legislative bodies the tool they need to create and implement workplace exposure limits (WELs) that genuinely protect workers from harm, at a cost industry can bear, ending decades of debate over what the limits should be and how practicable it is for industry to meet them. 

TROLEX INSPIRES NEW APPG PERSPECTIVE ON RESPIRATORY HEALTH

In 2020, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Respiratory Health (APPG) issued the report “Silica, the next asbestos?”, which examined the disproportionate effect of silica dust to construction workers’ lives. 

Since the publication of that report, the APPG were contacted by a number of experts on the subject matter, who highlighted the advances in risk reduction and the particularly promising rise of real-time dust and silica monitoring technology. 

“Trolex believe that the most obvious and immediate benefit of real-time monitoring is in improving safety for those potentially exposed to silica in the workplace.” 

The new, revised report, titled “Improving Silicosis Outcomes in the UK” also explored these new silicosis prevention strategies, including some input from Trolex on the subject matter. From this, the APPG raised several clinical and regulatory recommendations to protect workers from the dangers of occupational silicosis going forward. 

“We recommend that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) assesses and determines the data and technology needed to allow the UK to reduce the WEL for work with silica to 0.05mg/m3.” 

The recommendations from the APPG’s report indicate a number of changes need to be made in order to improve safety across all UK industries which use silica. These recommendations focus on both ways to prevent exposure to dangerous Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) in the workplace, including improvements in education, real-time monitoring and reducing exposure limits, as well as improving health and support for those who currently suffer with silicosis. 

“We recommend that the HSE actively considers and consults with industry on the positions of real-time monitoring to complement the hierarchy of control.” 

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’d like to learn more about our AIR XS, 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 to arrange a call with one of our experts today. 

Collaborative expertise towards a common goal for occupational health

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.

Offering the market innovative solutions

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.  

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 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.

A needed change of approach

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 Portable 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.

Looking towards the future

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.

How does the ‘Psychological Contract’ relate to dust monitoring?

Have you heard of the ‘psychological contract’? It’s the unwritten understanding of the interaction between you, your workplace environment and your colleagues.  

We all have a psychological contract with our employers, whether we know it or not.

As well as considering the physical aspects of your work environment, your psychological contract includes things like the quality of relationships you have with the people you work with, whether you feel properly listened to and understood and know what’s expected of you in your role. 

An important part of that contract is ‘psychological safety’. How safe or unsafe your psychological contract leaves you feeling at work.  

‘Psychological Safety’

A term coined in 1999 by organisational behavioural scientist, Amy Edmondson, ‘psychological safety’ includes things like trust in your colleagues, your perception of physical threat in your working environment and how you feel about the training and support you get to do your job.  

Unsurprisingly, the safer people feel at work, both physically and emotionally, the more productive they are.  

By the same token, if people feel unsafe, then not only are they less productive, but the time the trouble and expense of having to replace people unhappy in their jobs is huge.  

Employee benefits provider Perkbox estimates that ‘disengaged employees are costing the UK economy £340 billion every year in lost training and recruitment costs, sick days, productivity, creativity and innovation.’ 

So how can you make sure that people in your organisation feel psychologically safe?  

Physical Safety First

The first important step in creating a psychologically safe workplace is to make it as physically safe as possible.  

Speaking with Trolex, Occupational Psychologist Catherine Dobson told us, “If an environment is not physically safe, if it’s too hot, too cold, or if it feels too dangerous people feel stressed. We must ask ourselves how do we get the right environment for people with the right kind of training, the right kind of cooperation to make it healthier? 

Which is what contributes to making our range of dust monitors, such an important development. These include the AIR XD Dust Monitor, the XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor – our wearable dust monitoring technology, and our AIR XS Silica Monitor for real-time silica dust monitoring. 

Not simply because it protects workers from the physical dangers of inhaling lethal respirable dusts, but because armed with the knowledge that they are working safely, people feel psychologically safer too.  

Catherine explains how: “In relation to silica and dust monitoring. Because the AIR XS Silica Monitor is new, there’s scope for demonstrating that it works. And people can see that.  

Also, because all these dust monitors work in real time, it gives people the trust that an intervention will take place should they be in danger. They can trust in the environment being safe.” 

A very good thing for workers on both a physical and emotional level.  

And great news, too, for the mining, tunnelling, quarrying, manufacturing and construction companies invested in fulfilling their side of the psychological contract with advanced dust monitoring. 

Businesses can then reap the rewards of improved production and better worker retention, so everybody wins. 

 

An introduction to particulates

As strange as this question may sound…have you ever taken a moment to sit down and think about dust? Really think about it? Think about what it actually is, where it comes from, why it exists, and the impact it might have on our lives? 

Probably not. And why would anyone? It’s just ‘there’ after all, hanging around, doing its thing. A staple accompaniment to life, only momentarily revealed in a shaft of sunlight or a sneeze, or lying on an expensive piece of machinery waiting to be…dusted. 

And while we’re all aware that exposure to dust or particulates can impact health, isn’t it the case that because dust is so small, so ephemeral, and so everywhere, questions of what it actually is, and what it really does, tend to get swept under the carpet?

So here’s a chance to take a closer look at what we’re dealing with when we refer to ‘dust’ and reflect on the significant health implications of exposure to something largely unseen that threatens the lives of many thousands of workers, in many hundreds of different industries around the world.

What is ‘dust’?

Dust, or for the purposes of this explanation, particulate matter, is, defined by Greenfacts as, ‘the sum of all solid and liquid particles suspended in air.’ 

A complex range of components including organic and inorganic particles, such as pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets, particulates can vary greatly in size (from coarse, to fine, to ultrafine), in composition, and in origin. 

Many types of particulate are considered hazardous. 

What causes particulates and how big are they?

Putting dust in the home (​composed of about 20–50% dead skin) to one side, about a third of the particulates that make up air pollution are created by vehicles, exhaust fumes, and particles from tyres and brakes. 

These coarse particles are made up of broken-up larger particles, with a size ranging from 2.5 to 10 µm (a micron is a millionth of a meter). They are also released by agricultural processes, mining, and burning fossil fuels, as well as naturally through pollen, mould spores, and plants and insects.

While industry and the burning of fossil fuels can produce particles from the release of non-combustible materials, other fine sub-micron particles are produced by the condensation of vapourised materials and atmospheric reactions of sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides initially released as gases. 

These fine particulates between 0.1 µm to 2.5 µm, make up most of the airborne particulate mass and represent the main danger to people living or working in a polluted environment.

Ultra fine particles which are smaller than 0.1 µm make up only a few percent of total particulate mass, though they represent over 90% of the number of particles. They’re largely formed from gases that will often end up coagulating to form a larger particulate.

The impacts on health.

Worldwide, the main cause of air pollution is coal burning, with dirty air killing more people than smoking, car crashes and HIV/Aids. It also shortens billions of people’s lives by up to six years according to a new report

The climate crisis too, largely a product of burning fossil fuels, is now making a significant contribution to air pollution through wildfires.

But that doesn’t mean the dangers of inhaling dangerous particulates are limited to smoggy city life or pollution blown cross country from burning forests.

At Trolex, our mission is focused on protecting the millions of people exposed to dangerous workplace dust, mist, fumes, vapour or gas – particulate threats that cover the full spectrum of particulate size.

As we wrote in our The importance of reading the room ebook:

‘Potentially lethal dust is everywhere – from construction dust, to the fibreglass/Glass Reinforced Plastics (GRP) used in loft insulation, and 3D printing that fuses layers and layers of extremely fine dust to create the final shape. 

There’s coffee dust, soldering fumes (20% of people soldering or working around solder develop asthma), carbon fibre and plaster related lime, sulphate hemihydrates, silica, and mica dust that leads to asthma, COPD, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.

There’s cement dust, plus the ubiquitous Amorphous Silica used in car tires, agri chemicals and animal feed, in toothpaste and cosmetics, paint, insulation materials, adhesives, coatings, and printer ink.

There’s biomass dust, dust created by waste disposal and recycling, sawmill wood dust, dust in nail bars, chiropodists, and podiatry clinics, tool sharpening dust and MDF dust particles coated in formaldehyde.’

Protecting people from the dangers of dust and particulate inhalation.

 There’s a huge amount that can be done to protect people from the dangers of inhaling dangerous particulates.

On a national level, governments can actually back up the rhetoric with action, instead of just paying lip service to environmental protection. China’s “war against pollution” that started in 2013 has already, supposedly, reduced levels of fossil fuel pollution by 29%. 

But clearly much more needs to be done by politicians and business leaders to transition industry to greener, less damaging energy and manufacturing production. To promote production methods which will reduce the creation of hazardous dust.

We all have a part to play.

Which is why we’re working so hard to both raise awareness of the problem and to put our Trolex AIR XD Dust Monitor, XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor, XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor andAIR XS Silica Monitor in the hands of people on the frontline who we can help protect.

With 12,000 UK, and half a million workers around the world dying every year from preventable diseases directly related to dust and particulate inhalation, our mission is as simple as it’s singularly focused, as it’s important.

It’s this: To educate the world’s construction, mining, tunnelling, heavy and manufacturing industries on the dust and particulate dangers their workers face. Then to make clear the smart, simple, cost effective ways our XD One and other duct monitoring technology can help them protect them. And ultimately…

For every worker exposed to dangerous particulates to have wearable personal dust monitoring equipment by 2031.

Get in touch today to speak to one of our experts about how real-time dust monitoring can help improve your safety processes and keep your workers safe from harmful respirable dusts.

The importance of reading the room

The importance of reading the room

When it comes to occupational health and safety, new real-time dust monitoring such as the XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor can help to make decisions for the hierarchy of controls. 

In this e-book we explain how the arrival of affordable, real-time monitoring, and both wearable and portable dust monitoring technologies promote this new awareness of the dangers of dust in a far broader range of working environments. 

Employers and the health and safety community are now shifting their attention. Where they’ve traditionally focused on safety, they now look at the major impacts on long-term health associated with working in hazardous environments. 

There’s also an increasing awareness of the range of industries that can present long-term health hazards through the inhalation of dangerous dust particles, from traditional industrial environments to commercial activities. 

The HSE are reporting an estimated 1.4 million people in the UK report ‘lung or breathing problems that were caused or made worse by work’ – and whilst it’s great that people are starting to pay more attention to this issue, there’s plenty of room for improvement. 

Whilst financial costs of lung diseases effect both businesses and individuals, respiratory diseases are more than just an economic drain. It’s a personal tragedy, and there are a whole raft of occupations and jobs where people are exposed to dangerous dust across the world. 

However, through the hierarchy of controls, businesses can determine the most effective solutions in order to keep workers protected from dangerous dust exposure. 

Knowing that dangerous dust exists, knowing its effects are potentially lethal, and knowing that the damage it causes is preventable, only takes you so far. Knowing how to prevent that harm is what matters, and this is how the hierarchy of controls can help businesses become more efficient, by understanding how effective each method is in benefitting the workforce. 

Fortunately, new accurate, real-time, fixed, wearable and portable dust and silica monitoring sensors are leading the detection charge across every use case. By precisely reading the real-time dust load in any given environment, and the enemy now ‘visible’, businesses can begin to apply the hierarchy of controls in a far more meaningful way. 

XD ONE vs other dust monitors on the market

An independent UK agency responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare, and for research into occupational risks in Great Britain, carried out a series of tests on three XD One Portable Dust Monitor units. 

They compared them to the following dust monitors: Casella CEL-712 Microdust Pro, a Thermo Scientific MIE Personal DataRam (pDR) 1500, a TSI SidePak AM510. 

The key elements of the testing were as follows: 

  • Tests were carried out in a calm air chamber. 
  • The tests used Arizona road dust, the industry standard for accuracy measurements and calibration. 
  • Fixed Concentration tests were performed at 2 mg/m³, 5 mg/m³ and 11 mg/m³. 
  • Stepped Concentration tests were performed moving from 2 mg/m³ to 5 mg/m³ and finally to 11 mg/m³. 
  • Simultaneous readings were taken using laboratory grade gravimetric sampling (TIOM and GK 2.69) to provide baseline accurate data from which to compare the portable units.

The results from the independent testing demonstrated that the XD ONE performs better than other personal dust monitors on the market. There were five critical messages from the testing as outlined below: 

  • The XD ONE performs as well as or better than the rival products in accurately monitoring for respirable dust. 
  • The tests found that the XD ONE unit’s performance was consistent between the XD ONE units, demonstrating that the good performance was consistent and repeatable. 
  • The XD ONE was consistent with laboratory grade gravimetric sampling units (the current industry standard, and often regulated methodology) at the tested dust levels. 
  • The XD ONE also performed as well or better than competitor products in ‘stepped-tests’ where the dust concentration was changed over time. 
  • The XD ONE is smaller, lighter, less fiddly and a single self-contained unit.