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 would like to learn more about our Air XS Silica Monitor, 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 form below to arrange a call with one of our experts today. 








    Revolutionary smart devices to future-proof health and safety

    Protecting the health and safety of the people who work for you is the ethical thing to do. It also makes good business sense as your people are your greatest asset. 

    But even if you aren’t driven by a moral or financial imperative, governments around the world are toughening up on the legislation that protects workers, so it’s not something any business can afford to ignore. 

    While some threats are obvious, others are invisible and incredibly hard to accurately detect, such as the deadly silica dust that are the by-product of many industries and manufacturing processes.  

    Silica dust is linked with severe health problems. It has been dubbed the ‘new asbestos’ and has already been the subject of litigation. Yet it’s something that has historically been impossible to monitor in real time. 

    Our Construction Industry Health and Safety Survey Winter 2021 shows that employers are concerned about safety, with nine out of 10 respondents recognising that worker safety is important or very important. 

    But it also revealed that on the ground it can be hard to meet the health and safety challenge, particularly when it comes to dust monitoring, which for a fifth of respondents accounted for half of their safety budget. 

    This in-depth report looks at how real-time, wearable dust monitoring technology can help to solve the issues from the findings of the Construction Industry Health and Safety Survey Winter 2021. 

    The findings ultimately mean that it’s clear we need a new approach to dust monitoring. One that looks to the future and is inspired by the intelligent tech revolutionising every other aspect of our lives.  

    It’s time to act now to tackle danger of hazardous dusts, like silica dust, by investing in smarter solutions to protect the air we breathe, with real-time dust monitoring. 








      Silica isn’t the new asbestos

      It’s been said hundreds of times…

      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…

      What 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 dust is.

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

      SO WHAT?

      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.

      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 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.

      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. 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.

      Don’t let history repeat itself

      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.








        Bringing solutions to combat fraud within the construction industry

        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.

        A growing problem for the construction industry

        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.

        Is the problem being taken seriously?

        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.

        Trolex real-time particulate monitors

        It’s time to get real on using real-time dust monitoring to reduce occupational lung diseases with the Air XD Dust Monitor and the XD One Personal Dust Monitor, and launching next month, the Air XS Silica Monitor.








          Our Tribute to Heather on Lung Leavin’ Day 2 February

          At the age of just 36, Heather Von St. James did not expect to be diagnosed with Mesothelioma so young. Upon the diagnosis of this cancer, Heather was given just 15 months to live. On February 2nd, 2006, Heather underwent major surgery to have her lung removed, in the hope to save her life. Heather’s sister declared the day “Lung Leavin’ Day”. 16 years later and after successful surgery, Heather is still fighting the cause to raise awareness of the disease.

          Mesothelioma, a form of cancer commonly found in the lungs or abdomen, is caused by exposure to asbestos. Simple exposure to airborne asbestos is that deadly. Whilst the number of new cases per year is approximately 3,000, an even more harrowing stat is that around 20,000,000 people are at risk of developing mesothelioma each year due to exposure to asbestos.

          “When I was a girl, I wore my dad’s work coat all the time. It was covered in asbestos from his construction job” Heather claimed on the Lung Leavin’ Day website. Asbestos is still found in many industrial buildings, homes and schools and is invisible to the naked eye. Heather’s story is, unfortunately, one of many. But Lung Leavin’ Day is about, in Heather’s words “building hope and awareness”.

          Asbestos and Mesothelioma is a growing problem in construction; however, it’s not alone. Almost 70% of cancer diagnosis in relation to construction health is caused by asbestosis – the next highest is exposure to silica. The APPG report released in 2020 in the UK entitled Silica – the next asbestos? explores this idea in more detail, but this is a subject that has been discussed scientifically, a long time before this date – e.g. The Guardian in Australia stating that silica IS the new asbestos.

          It is estimated by the HSE that in 2005, respirable crystalline silica (RCS) was the cause to over 500 deaths in UK construction. Like asbestos, RCS can cause extreme problems within breathing as well as, like in Heather’s case, forms of lung cancer and inevitably silicosis. Whilst some treatment is available for Mesothelioma, similar treatments are not yet available for silicosis.

          As shocking as this is, Heather’s message is one of hope and awareness of this issue, and many Health and Safety associations and companies are working to reduce the risk to employees from the exposure of hazardous substances, and the damage this can cause. Trolex is one such company that is on this mission, by inventing dust monitoring equipment that measures the dangers in real time – this isn’t unique to Trolex. However, specific monitoring of silica in real time IS.

          Launching in May 2022, the Trolex Air XS Silica Monitor is the first real-time RCS monitor of its kind, which allows for dangerous silica dust to be detected quicker than any other method. This ground-breaking technology will eventually save millions of lives.

          Today, on Lung Leavin’ Day, the message is simple.

          Exposure to hazardous substances, in particular dangerous particulates is a serious matter. Silica, like asbestos, kills.

          It’s time to raise awareness of this issue and GET REAL on this matter.








            Helping Thermatic Homes meet the challenges of dust monitoring in domestic environments

            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 exelectrician 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.” 

            A new, better way of protecting staff and customers

            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. 

            A clear message to the industry

            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. 

             

            Thermatic and main contractor feedback

            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. 

             








              Silica monitoring technology: Not what it used to be?

              Silica dust is a problem. A serious problem. In particular, respirable crystalline silica (RCS) – the minute respirable silica dust particles released when working with concrete, bricks, mortar, ceramics, MDF, plywood, stone, ceramics and other similar materials.

              Invisible to the naked eye, and 100 times smaller than sand, RCS is fine enough to reach deep inside the lungs. Once there, it causes long term and often fatal damage through silicosis, heart failure, arthritis, kidney disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and even lung cancer.

              In the UK, the IOSH reports that half a million workers are exposed to RCS. It contributes to 12,000 lung disease deaths a year – mostly among workers employed in construction or the manufacturing of products for construction.

              And RCS isn’t a secret. It’s an acknowledged threat. The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) recognises it as ‘the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos’ and The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Respiratory Health have released a damning report Silica – the next asbestos’.

              The main challenge in combating its dangers is the inherent nature of silica dust itself. The fact that it’s so small, and that as minute shards of irregularly shaped quartz, it’s so hard to detect. The small scale of the particles has made real-time RCS monitoring incredibly difficult, time-consuming, and expensive – which makes the scale of the problem even larger.

              Silica Monitoring is a Big Problem

              Typically, exposure monitoring for RCS has involved occupational hygienists setting up fixed location or wearable instrumentation, including a pump connected to a sampling head that collects samples on a filter. These samples are then sent off to a lab for analysis.

              This exposure reporting is then used to determine whether control measures are effective or not and whether an area is safe to work in.

              That’s clearly far from ideal.

              Analysis is retrospective, reporting on working environments long after workers may already have been exposed to potentially lethal amounts of RCS and is inherently inaccurate. Also, because analysis needs to be carried out by H&S professionals, costs can quickly rocket, with analysis often totalling thousands of pounds a month – and that’s just per survey!

              The Future of Silica Monitoring

              All of this makes the prospect of accurate, affordable, real-time RCS monitoring something of a “Holy Grail” when it comes to protecting workers from this deadly dust.

              A Holy Grail that, with strong rumours of a significant breakthrough in silica monitoring soon to hit the market, Trolex look set to revolutionise RCS detection and the health and safety industry. Eventually, protecting countless workers from unnecessary exposure to potentially lethal silica.

              Imagine that. No more clunky, costly, after-the-event analysis and guesswork. Just accurate, affordable, real-time silica monitoring – which will be available in just a few short months.

              Curious?

              As they say…watch this space.

              To make sure you’re kept up-to-date on all the latest RCS detection news and developments, you can register to become an Early Adopter for our Air XS Silica Monitor here.








                XD One Personal Dust Monitor launches into the construction industry

                It’s amazing how often a product created to solve a specific problem in one marketplace goes on to be adopted in others.

                We’ve all heard of the NASA ‘spinoffs’ – the 1,300 documented NASA technologies now used across the world. From memory foam, to GPS, to scratch resistant sunglasses, to cordless vacuum cleaners; the list goes on…and on. You don’t have to look too hard to spot crossover successes – the law of unintentional consequence going about its business in the most constructive of ways.

                In a B2B context, you could apply the same principle to the Trolex XD One Personal Dust Monitor.

                XD One Personal Dust Monitor: Life-saving technology for every sector

                The wearable dust monitor, XD One, was originally developed as an evolution of our Air XD Dust Monitor, a fixed dust monitoring device for the mining, tunnelling and quarrying industries. Industries infamous for their creation of dangerous respirable dusts. But now it’s finding a whole new audience in lighter, less obvious industries such as baking, woodworking, paper manufacturing, motor engineering, highway maintenance and especially construction. 

                If the interest shown at the recent Safety in Construction Show is anything to go by, there’s now a real desire to learn more about the XD One Personal Dust Monitor, and the life-saving protection it gives workers all across the construction industry.  

                Building an awareness of the dangers posed by construction dust

                Organisations such as the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are doing their best to inform and educate the construction industry of the threats of dangerous particulates. But, as feedback from The Safety in Construction Show made clear, it’s the more visible, more immediate threats that attract the headlines. Trips, slips, fire or explosions tend to attract attention, with dust related tragedies rarely treated with the same degree of importance. 

                It’s one reason why we work so hard to get in front of the industry. To educate construction specialists (especially senior management) on the long-term impacts of dangerous exposure to construction dust and particulates.  

                The other reason? To make clear that the solution exists right here, right now – with the XD One, personal dust monitoring by Trolex. 

                A new appreciation of threat and threatening environments  

                As we’ve written before, just because you can’t see a threat doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.’  

                And while great plumes of rock or coal dust present an obvious, visible risk to workers, what about those particles that are so small, we mistakenly think they’re not even there? What about the invisible, previously undetectable threats? 

                With our XD One Personal Dust Monitor able to measure even the smallest of microscopic construction dust to 0.38 nanometers, if it’s there, the XD One will tell you in real time.  

                Instead of presuming an area safe because there’s no obvious sign of dust, we can measure it as safe – or not. 

                And importantly, because the XD One Personal Dust Monitor measures in real time, it means that instead of being alerted to exposure after the event, you can manage processes ‘live’ to keep your people safe and your business efficient.  

                The practical benefits of real-time dust monitoring

                As much as anything, it’s the fact that the XD One Personal Dust Monitor is wearable, that’s changing the whole dynamic of dust detection – especially for the construction industry.  

                Our personal and wearable dust monitor is so small, so light and so low maintenance that workers quickly forget they’re even wearing it. It has transformed life-saving dust detection from an expensive, time consuming and cumbersome hassle (too often neglected or even plain ignored), into a Health and Safety no-brainer for any business serious about worker welfare. 

                An important life saving device for the mining, tunnelling and quarrying industries, crossing over to save lives in the construction industry. 

                If you work in construction and want to find out more about the XD One, just drop us a line using the contact form below. We’ll tell you everything you want to know about protecting you and your teams on your construction sites.