Preventing the dangers of silica dust

Friday, 22 June, 2018

Exposure to silica dust in the workplace is causing a resurgence of the fatal lung disease known as silicosis.

It is estimated that each year over half a million Australian workers are exposed to silica dust at work. Although it was previously associated with mining, silicosis is now becoming more prevalent in the masonry and construction industries.

Masonry products such as brick, concrete and stone contain silica. Cutting these materials releases this silica in the form of a fine dust, known as respirable crystalline silica. One hundred times smaller than a grain of sand, the extremely destructive particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs without workers being aware of it, potentially causing silicosis, lung cancer, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The disease is characterised by acute coughing, weight loss, fatigue and debilitating dyspnea. Health professionals have become alarmed at the rise in the number of silicosis cases. According to the Cancer Council, each year over 230 people develop lung cancer due to past exposure to silica dust at work.

Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe work place under WHS regulations, risking fines of up to $6000 for individuals or $30,000 in the case of a body corporate — as well as the possibility of lawsuits.

In response to concerns about silicosis, Australian brick distributor MD Brick has developed the iQ360XR dustless brick saw. It aims to help prevent exposure to silica dust in the masonry industry. The saw can be used for brick, stone, pavers and tile, giving it wide application for a number of trades.

“Protective equipment relies on compliance by workers, enforcement by employers and effective fit. The iQ360XR is a 14″ masonry saw with a fully integrated dust collection system which has been tested to capture 99.5% of the dust at the source without using water,” said MD Brick Managing Director Martin Driene.

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