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.

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.

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). 

Image of AIR XS Silica Monitor
AIR XS Silica Monitor

Image of AIR XD Dust Monitor
AIR XD Dust Monitor

Image of XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor
XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor

Image of XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor
XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor

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.

 

We can no longer be ignorant about killer dust

Did you hear about the plane crash that killed everyone on board? Your answer likely depends on where you live.

According to researchers at the University of Oxford: ‘English Wikipedia readers were much more likely to read about North American and European crashes, and Spanish Wikipedia readers were more likely to read about Latin American crashes.

Page views on English and Spanish Wikipedia for North American and Latin American aircraft crashes, respectively, were each about 50 times greater than for African crashes.’

These events are tragic, to be sure, but the deaths from these situations are more generally heard about than others, such as from dust inhalation – despite technology and processes available to help prevent them.

The decay of novelty

It also depends on when the crash happened, with Royal Society Open Science discovering that irrespective of the crash location and body count, ‘on both English and Spanish Wikipedia, page views dropped in half between three to 10 days after the event’. The decay of novelty as we lose interest in things when they stop being new.

The ‘finite pool of worry’

And then there’s how much capacity you have left to care, the concept scholars refer to as the ‘finite pool of worry’.

‘Because people have a limited capacity for how many issues they can worry about at once, as worry increases about one type of risk, concern about other risks may lessen.’ says The Centre for Research on Environmental Decisions.

Proximity. Timing. The competition with other concerns for a limited capacity to impact emotions. It’s a complicated old business. Disaster, its impact, its legacy and even the ways we look at – or away – from it. That’s only talking about sudden disastrous events; the plane crash, typhoon, earthquake, and other similar events.

The slow-motion disaster

What about the disaster that inexorably unfolds? The slow-motion cumulative disaster. Disaster that – over time – takes far more lives than the one off tragedies? Or even a succession of one-off tragedies?

What about:

  • The 8.9 million people killed by air pollution a year?
  • The 1 million work-related fatalities annually?
  • The hundreds of thousands around the world dying every year from workplace dust inhalation?
  • The millions whose lives are irreparably damaged every year from inhaling dust in the workplace?

As we’ve seen, it’s human nature to focus on more recent, local, high-profile events. Discreet, distinct, storylines.

However, don’t the disasters we overlook – the slower moving, less attention-grabbing tragedies that play out day after day – deserve our attention too?

The threat from dust inhalation

The problem of particulate and dust inhalation is widely ignored, so too is the priority in finding viable solutions.

This is why we do what we do at Trolex, and why we’ve set ourselves the challenge of reducing the risk and impact dust inhalation can have on workers around the world who are rarely spoken about.

This is done through the development of technology like the AIR XD Dust Monitor, XD ONE Portable Dust MonitorXD1+ Personal Dust Monitor and AIR XS Silica Monitor alongside supporting software, to deliver data in realtime and make sure every worker knows the state of air around them.

We haven’t stopped there, however. Our engineers are constantly asking “what can we do so that, in 10 years time, every worker in the world exposed to dangerous particulates is wearing personal dust monitoring?”

This is easier said than done, of course, but it’s a challenge we’re committed to undertaking and beating. As well as setting ourselves the task of overcoming the engineering challenge, we’re having to face those natural ‘hidden in plain sight’ biases discussed above.

We’ve privately funded each project every step of the way – from research and development, to manufacturing and distribution. Every penny.

Independently developed dust monitoring technology

Not that we mind. In fact, we’re proud to have independently conceived and created our range of real-time dust monitoring products: innovative dust monitoring technology that’s now the envy of the industry.

These products are perfectly capable of helping us meet our 10-year challenge, and in the process save many thousands of lives.

Set against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the billions and billions of pounds spent to combat it, the macabre irony hasn’t been lost on us, that worldwide more people have died inhaling dangerous particulates in the last five years than they have from Covid 19.

Unnecessary deaths that for only a couple of million pounds backing, our technology could still go faster and further in preventing.

Maybe we should call for a lockdown?

Learn more about dust monitoring systems and technology

We work with businesses around the world to improve the safety of hazardous work environments and give workers a better chance at reducing the risks of dust inhalation. The long term effects can be severe and, while it might not be as obvious or attention grabbing as other tragedies, we’re committed to doing what we can to help those at risk.

If you’d like to know more about our dust monitoring systems and how they can help your worksite, get in touch with our team of experts today.