What is Silica?
Silica is also known as crystalline silica or quartz. It is a naturally occurring metal found in rocks, soils, granite, or sand.
During drilling, cutting, or grinding, the dust produced may contain small particles of silica.
When silica is airborne and someone inhales it, it can become a health hazard.
What is Silicosis?
Crystalline silica is a carcinogen, and exposure can cause lung infection or lung cancer.
Small exposures to silica can be a health risk. The most notable disease is silicosis, which occurs after the exposure.
The main symptom of silicosis is a scar tissue that occurs in the lung resulting in the lung’s inability to take the oxygen requirements.
Symptoms of Silicosis
The main symptom of silicon is unable to breathe normally, also known as dyspnea.
A person may also have a persistent and severe cough. Other symptoms include increased breathing, chest pains, fever, dark skin, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
A person may also lose weight drastically.
Some occupations have a risk of exposure to silica dust. These mostly consist of industries that use silica in, for example, manufacturing.
As such, workers in abrasive blasting, stone cutting, mining, quarrying, tunneling, drilling, foundry are at risk of exposure to silica.
Since a small exposure to silica is hazardous, employers have to ensure their construction workers’ exposure is below the permissible levels.
The law is stringent in regards to exposure to cancer-causing agents. An employer must determine if the substance is hazardous.
If it is present at the workplace, there is a need for risk assessment concerning employees’ safety and their health due to exposure.
The employer has a legal duty to prevent exposure to silica to employees by taking preventive measures.
Workers in occupations such as mining and quarrying, have exposure to silica dust.
Also, those in construction and foundries and masonries can be exposed. Other processes include blasting during paint removal, building cleaning, glass manufacture, ceramics, and manufacture of rubber, chemicals, and pesticides.
Also, the manufacture of flour, agriculture industries, and transport of friable leads to exposure.
Duty of Care & Work Environment
An employer must by law consider hazardous agents on site and proactively implement safety preventative measures.
There should be a sheet with all the information as regards to safety. The information is contained in a safety data sheet. The data about the minimum exposure levels and duration should also be made available and explicitly stated.
The employer should ensure measures are in place to prevent exposure and that steps are taken in case there are accidental exposure issues or the release of chemicals in the workplace etc.
An employer has the legal duty to prevent exposure to silica through proper housekeeping and to prevent dust build-up.
Also, the working area should be properly cleared. There is a need for a risk assessment identifies the risks and a plan of action should follow this.
An employer has a duty to train workers on the risks of exposure to silica and ensure best practices are adhered to do.
Control measures should be implemented in the workplace for emissions of silica to waterways, the atmosphere, and waste disposal.
Legal Time Limits for Dust Injury Claims
With illnesses resulting from this substance in the workplace, a legal action should be taken within two years of the date of diagnosis.
Defining the correct cause of the illness is very important in these claims.
If you feel the cause of the medical condition is directly attributable to your work environment, then the preliminary step is to sit down with your solicitor who works with cases of this nature, to get an opinion, so you can then make an informed decision regarding your options.
In contentious business, a Solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.