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Silicosis – A Serious Problem Plaguing Tradesmen | 13th September 2019

Silicosis is a disease plaguing tradesmen all around the world, and it’s been referred to as “the next asbestos”. Silicosis is a lung disease, and it is caused by repeated inhalation of silica, a mineral which can be found within sand, rock and mineral ores including quartz. The first signs that you may be suffering from silicosis usually include a cough which may be accompanied by fever and chest pain. Over time, your breathing ability will start to decline and in many cases the disease is ultimately fatal.

In this blog post, All Trades Group will be filling you in on everything you need to know about silica and silicosis, along with some ways to stay safe on the job.

What are the dangers associated with silica?

Silica can be found in the following:

  • Rock
  • Sand
  • Tiles
  • Concrete
  • Artificial and Natural Stones
  • Some types of plastic benchtops

Stonemasons who work with crystalline silica on a daily basis are exposed to a significant element of risk, as silica dust has been linked to cases of lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), kidney disease and silicosis. The dust particles are microscopic in size, even smaller than a grain of sand and therefore quick to spread throughout the air and confined workspaces.

Repeated exposure to silica dust will result in scarring of the lungs, which may lead to the development of accelerated silicosis. An increasing number of stonemasons are lodging worker compensation claims after contracting silicosis, many of whom worked in the benchtop industry. Australian doctors have expressed serious concern about the sharp increase in silicosis cases, and it is important that all stonemasons, miners, engineers, farmers and construction workers are aware of this issue.

When is Silica Dust Released?

When working with any of the above materials, tradesmen often use machinery including drills, saws, crushers and more. Every time the material is worked on, silica particles will be released. Because they are so small, workers may not even realise their presence and the irreversible damage they are doing to their lungs.

Many benchtops in kitchens, bathrooms and laundries around the country are now made using engineered stone, which can contain a silica content of 90 percent or more. This is a significant cause of concern for doctors, and it is crucial that all workers involved in the fabrication/installation of engineered stone countertops wear appropriate PPE gear and are fully briefed on the dangers posed by silica.

Symptoms of Silicosis

Those who have contracted silicosis usually exhibit some of the following signs:

Shortness of breath
Chest Pain
Fatigue
Coughing

You may be suffering from silicosis and not realise it, as symptoms do not always present during the early stages. Therefore it is important to have regular screenings and consultations with your doctor.

Silicosis is classified at three different levels: Chronic, Accelerated and Acute. Those who have had 10+ years of exposure to silica dust usually fall into the chronic category, whilst those with between 5-10 years of exposure fall into the accelerated category. If you have had very high exposure to silica dust (over a period of weeks or months), you may fall into the acute category.

Silicosis Prevention – Safety around Silica Dust

The best way to protect yourself against silicosis is by wearing a protective mask, in addition to using tools with dust extractors running at all times. All Trades Group are proud to supply a wide range of respiratory products to help you stay safe on the job. It is also recommended that where possible, all tools/materials are wet down to help minimise the spread of dust particles.

Safe Work Australia has recently reduced the silica dust exposure limit to 0.05 milligrams per cubic metre, which covers an eight-hour shift. This limit is not currently enforceable, but it is expected to be implemented within the next 3 years.

Don’t Risk It – Use Quality PPE Gear by All Trades Safety

Silicosis dust can cause serious diseases; don’t risk your safety or that of your team. All Trades supply a wide range of premium safety gear for hard working Australians, including PPE gear. If you are concerned about working with silica and would like some advice on choosing the right protective equipment, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team today on 1300 533 357, or via the contact form on our website.

For further information on working with silica in Australia, please visit the Crystalline Silica and Silicosis’ page on the Safe Work Australia website.

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