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What workers need to know about silica dust?

If you work in an industry such as construction, oil and gas, manufacturing or agriculture, you may be at risk of exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

Your employer has a responsibility to manage the associated risks to your health and inform you of what you need to do. This may include:

  • whether the tasks you are undertaking or the materials you are using will create dust that may contain silica
  • how the task should be completed safely without exposure to or minimising your exposure to RCS
  • training you need to implement any identified controls measures, eg how to use the extraction systems provided.
  • providing you with personal protective equipment (PPE) and respiratory protective equipment (RPE) that it is suitable for the work and helps to reduce your exposure to RCS if it cannot be effectively done by other controls
  • a face-fit test for any RPE – it is really important that you know how to wear RPE correctly
  • what the process is for reporting incidents or equipment defects
  • whether the organisation is monitoring your health with regular checks under a health surveillance programme.

Symptoms related to silica exposure

It is important you know the effect exposure to RCS can have on your health and how to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms that may suggest you’ve been affected. These include:

  • persistent coughing
  • progressive/severe shortness of breath
  • difficulty in walking short distances, completing tasks, doing exercise or breathing
  • unexplained fatigue and a loss of mobility
  • fever
  • weight loss
  • chest pain.