BOHS welcomes an important new report on silica

BOHS applauds an important new report which clearly calls for prevention of exposures to silica in the workplace as the first line of defence against silicosis, an entirely preventable, incurable and often fatal lung condition that continues to undermine the respiratory health of Britain’s workers.

The report has been published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Respiratory Health and the not-for-profit organisation B&CE and is entitled Silica – the next asbestos?.

Even among the UK’s half-million construction workers themselves, the report notes, there remains low awareness of the health risks associated with silica, a natural substance found in stone, rocks and sands and a component of concrete, bricks, tiles, and mortar.

The report makes strong recommendations calling for improvements in the provision of occupational health services to the GB construction industry. For maximum impact, it is vital that these services include occupational hygiene expertise, to facilitate effective risk management and the prevention of silica exposures. The key to achieving success is a recommendation to raise awareness around silicosis.

John Dobbie, President of BOHS, said, “As the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, we greatly welcome this important report and its call for better measures to control risks posed by silica in the workplace. There is a great need for better awareness of the dangers of silicosis amongst employers – especially those in small to medium (SME) sized enterprises – and also amongst workers themselves – and again this need is most pronounced on the SME end of the construction sector.  BOHS works tirelessly to raise awareness of the causes of occupational lung disease and influence national and international policy and practice and we are really pleased to see our hard work acknowledged. Collaboration will ultimately be the key to successfully tackle silicosis in the UK.”

Chris Keen, Co-chair of BOHS’s Breathe Freely in Construction Campaign, added “British workers are 100 times more likely to die from a preventable occupational disease than from an accident at work. This has to change. I would commend the ongoing work of the supporters of our Breathe Freely in Construction campaign, as well as our regulator and other health and safety professional bodies, in their efforts to tackle the burden of silicosis. I urge employers to be aware that help is available. The Breathe Freely in Construction campaign offers a wide range of useful resources to assist in preventing exposures to silica dust. Our website also links to our register of occupational hygienists who are experts in reducing health risks in the construction industry.”

Since 2015 BOHS has led the Breathe Freely campaign to reduce the risk of respiratory disease, creating and sharing technical guidance and training materials designed to reduce exposures to silica on construction sites across the country. The campaign resources emphasise that good design is the cornerstone of reducing exposures to silica dust, and clearly demonstrate the value that professional occupational hygienists provide in preventing occupational disease. The campaign has reached over 2000 construction industry players directly through a programme of roadshows and presentations at construction industry events. Yet – as is clear from the evidence of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Respiratory Health – there is much that remains to be done.

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