Ground Control tackles the effects of Silica Dust
Ground Control introduced a new face-fit testing program in 2014 to highlight the effects of silica dust exposure to construction workers. With severe consequences such as acute silicosis and lung cancer, it is imperative that our workers understand the importance of a properly fitted face mask.
Silica particles are produced when carrying out a number of everyday tasks on a construction site, including:
- Rock drilling
- Brick cutting
- Glass manufacturing
- Foundry work
- Stone working
- Ceramic manufacturing and other related activities
The above list indicates just a few of the many processes that release silica dust into the air. With such a vast variety of outlets in which exposure to silica can reach harmful levels, it is essential that we take the relevant precautions.
The face-fit test is designed to demonstrate the importance of a properly fitted facemask. It is split into two sections, one completed without a facemask using a diluted Bitrex solution and the other with a mask and a higher concentrate solution. A face-fit hood is placed over the participant as the solution is pumped in using a nebuliser.
The initial process involves the testing of the user’s senses with the diluted gas pumped in until the participant tastes the substance. This is followed by the fitting of a facemask before being placed back inside the hood where this time the higher concentrate Bitrex solution is used.
The importance of fitting a facemask securely to your face is essential as the slightest exposure to silica dust can cause long lasting, detrimental effects. Once properly fitted, the hood is placed back over the participant with the higher concentrate solution pumped in using a secondary nebuliser.
A series of tests are carried out, as the solution is pumped in at regular intervals, including head movements, deep breathing, talking, and bending, to replicate the everyday activities of a construction worker.
Mark, who has been visiting many of our teams across the country carrying out the test, commented;
“The protection from silicosis disease can be easily avoided by; managing/reducing the risks involved, ensuring we have a documented approach and by completing Daily Risk Assessments. We need to communicate these findings to our fellow workers while setting up safe systems of work (SSOW), exclusions zones, water suppressions at source and correct RPE – PPE usage.
“We must do all that we can that really highlights the definition of what HEALTH actually means to us all when at work – the Protection of bodies and minds of people from Illness resulting from the materials, processes or procedures used in the workplace.”