It is important when carrying out certain types of work to protect against inhaling crystalline silica dust particles, which can cause lung diseases and cancer. Cutting, shaping or grinding hard natural materials, such as granite and products with a latex coating, produces millions of these particles, which are small and light enough to float in the air. These are called Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) and have long-term effects on workers in certain industries.
Although employers have a responsibility to protect their personnel, it is up to the individual to safeguard themselves when working with silica. Even a short time spent inhaling RCS particles can have health consequences. As a result, there are specialised silica dust masks available, which have been developed to reduce the risks.
Problems caused by silica exposure (Silicosis)
If a silica dust respirator is not worn at all times, the major threat of exposure to silica is the chronic condition of silicosis. This is a disease whereby the silica crystals become embedded in the soft tissue of the lungs, which are then attacked by the body’s immune system.
This physical process leads to swelling, which eventually becomes scarring. The tiny scars join up to form fibroids, leading to a condition called fibrosis. This scar tissue severely impacts the lungs making them much less efficient during respiration, so breathing becomes difficult. Crackling and wheezing result, while the lips of sufferers turn blue due to lack of oxygen in the blood. Silicosis can lead to other diseases, including tuberculosis and lung cancer.
Taking precautions at work
It is the law in Australia that employers ensure their workers are protected from silica exposure. Self-employed sole traders and business owners carry this responsibility themselves. Protective silica dust masks come in various designs, some simpler to use than others. The most basic masks have filters, which must be changed regularly to ensure efficiency during use.
It is important that masks fit properly. The industry standard is the N95 silica dust respirator, which blocks out at least 95% of silica particles. These masks form a seal around the nose and mouth, so no air can enter the body except through the respirator itself. These masks offer excellent protection and don’t feel cumbersome to wear.
A reputable dealer such as Rite Price Distributors supplies the latest and best anti-silica masks, including the N95 silica dust respirator and other styles, which meet Australia’s highest safety standards.