November 25, 2019

Silica (Si) is silicon dioxide and is a naturally occurring mineral found in most rocks, sands, clay's and soils.  The main form of Crystalline Silica (CS) is quartz (aka free silica) and can be found in common construction materials such as:

  • Concrete
  • Manufactured / Composite Stone Benches
  • Mortar
  • Bricks & Blocks
  • Clay
  • Pavers
  • Autoclaved Aerated Concrete
  • Tiles
  • Sandstone
  • Render
  • Aggregates

Although CS is present in the natural environment we need to ensure we eliminate or minimise uncontrolled exposure to CS generated in the workplace. 

There are many activities that generate general / nuisance dusts in the work environment and often these dusts contain CS.  CS dust is typically released when cutting, grinding, crushing and drilling any of those items listed above.

Exposure to amounts of CS that exceed the current exposure limits 0.1mg/m3 increase the likelihood of the worker contracting silicosis, lung cancer or other progressive lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma.

Like other workplace hazards exposure to CS can be controlled by adopting a risk assessment approach. Controls include:

  • Eliminate dry cutting of products containing CS
  • Review of Safety Data Sheets
  • Use of M or H class vacuums and attachments
  • Use of water suppression
  • Establish effective policies and procedures
  • Training of workers
  • Use of RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment)

Please note:

When using RPE its important to select the correct mask, train workers in the use and maintenance of the mask.

Face Fit tests should be conducted to make sure the mask is providing sufficient protection.

WHSE Consulting can assist in undertaking site audits to identify sources of CS and we can also conduct Face Fit testing.