Silica dust is the new asbestos.
But what if it’s not? What if there’s really nothing new about silica dust in relation to asbestos?
The link between the two is even closer than you may think…
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 dust is.
The similarities between silica dust and asbestos are much closer than people are aware of.
There is a different attitude towards asbestos compared to silica dust.
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 dust than people may be aware of.
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 respirable 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.
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. What’s more, an estimated 50,000 workers are exposed to silica dust globally.
The importance of the dangers of silica dust must be realised, especially with what is known about how dangerous asbestos is.
Asbestos is just as lethal as silica dust. The dangers are the same, yet we cannot afford for the results of exposure to silica dust 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.
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.
ALUK’s studies show that cases of lung disease related deaths in the UK have been on the rise for 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.
After its relaunch in February, ALUK established a new five-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.
It is evident that the seriousness of lung problems in relation to other diseases is not taken as seriously, despite what we are seeing from the data.
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 gruesome statistics, this can become a possibility.
The end goal is to provide support for everyone effected by all forms of lung disease.
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.
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.
International Women’s Day (IWD) was on 8th March 2022, which coincided with National Women in Construction Week (WICW) 7th-13th March.
As a technology company that develops and manufactures engineered solutions for the construction, mining, and tunnelling industry. Trolex could be seen to be a ‘traditionally male’ company.
However, whilst the of numbers of employees and the ratio of men to women stands currently at about 5:1, in terms of culture, Trolex prides itself on mutual respect and understanding for all our colleagues, regardless of our differences.
We are the people of Trolex. Not the men, not the women, but the people.
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”.
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.
The same survey found that most children agreed that you should grow up to be whatever you want to be (94%), while 82% believed that boys and girls can be just as good at the same things.
It does seem to be going in the right direction, but society is clearly not there yet on the road to complete equality.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.