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How to ensure your workplace is silica dust safe

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Protect your employees from respirable crystalline silica

Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is an extremely fine particle produced by cutting, drilling, or otherwise breaking common materials. It is a serious hazard in the workplace, and inhalation can cause silicosis and lung cancer. There is no safe level of silica dust that a worker can inhale, meaning that even companies that are legally compliant may still be exposing their employees to dangerous levels of silica.

Clean air is not a luxury for me – it's a necessity!

Some common sources of silica are:

  • Quartz
  • Soil
  • Sand
  • Granite
  • Cement
  • Brick
silica dust in hands 1

The facts about silica dust

Silica dust increases cancer risk

Every year in the EU, 7,000 cases of lung cancer can be traced back to silica dust exposure.

An underestimated risk

Just 16 % of British construction professionals believe their colleagues understand the risks of inhaling silica dust.

Despite legislation, workers still suffer

OSHA estimates that 12,173 iron foundry workers in the US are exposed to RCS over the new permissible exposure limit.

A leading cause of workplace fatalities

Britain’s HSE estimates that silica dust inhalation killed more than 500 construction workers in 2005.

Silica dust damages your lungs

Breathing in silica dust can cause lung cancer, silicosis, and COPD.

A slow process

It takes under a year of working with silica to develop silicosis. There is no cure for this deadly disease.

Harmful silica particles: 1/1000th smaller than the diametre of a human hair

silica particle 1000 times smaller than a human hair

How long do silica dust particles remain in the air?

As a result of their tiny size – the same reason they can do so much damage to your employees‘ lungs – silica particles remain airborne for an incredibly long time. Even the air currents generated by someone walking by is enough to disturb silica dust, and once it’s in the air, it can take up to four hours to settle again. During this time, it poses a considerable health risk, as even a small amount of respirable silica dust can be hazardous.

The smoke's gone, the hazard's gone?

You thought wrong. This graph is showing a range of particle sizes, demonstrating that smaller particles – such as silica dust – remain airborne for longer.

how long do particles remain airborne

What is the legal limit for silica dust exposure in my country?

Specific silica dust exposure standards differ from country to country. Each country has its limits of how much respirable crystalline silica in the air is ʹsafeʹ for an 8-hour shift.

  • In Poland, the limit is 0.3 mg/m³
  • The Swiss limit is 0.15 mg/m³
  • In many countries, including the UK, France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Belgium, the limit is 0.1 mg/m³
  • The Netherlands’ limit is 0.075 mg/m³
  • In America, Germany, Italy and Finland, the limit is just 0.05 mg/m³

One consistent factor around the world is that regulators are continuing to reduce limits, and regulatory fines can do significant damage to a business.

OSHA silica exposure fees in the US can be up to $7,000 per day!

A UK landscaping contractor was recently fined £20,000 by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) after failing to meet HSE silica safety requirements.

The cost of not adhering to silica dust standards

It can be incredibly costly for businesses to remain compliant as they increase cleaning efforts and install expensive extraction systems. This is particularly true as regulators lower silica dust exposure limits, putting pressure on employers to invest more in these systems. In the USA, for example, it is expected that compliance could cost employers up to $1 billion a year. However, these systems often aren’t even effective enough. Pick a solution that actually works by choosing Zehnder, the air cleaning experts.

conventional air cleaning is not enough

Conventional air cleaning is not enough

Standard dust collectors seek to accumulate high volumes of dust, mostly by using bag filters. However, these filters are incapable of capturing RCS. Zehnder’s solution is a dual stage filtration system.

The first stage is Zehnder’s patented FlimmerM® filter which captures high volumes of dust while allowing air to continuously flow through to the 2nd stage. The 2nd stage is a compact filter that can focus on smaller particles and can be rated as high as ePM1. This allows us to deliver high quality filtration without sacrificing clean air delivery rate.

For more information on our filters and filter classes, visit our air filters page.

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