Branch Secretary : suz.muna.unite@gmail.com
  

Silica dust: Warning to construction workers about PPE shortage

Unite: don’t risk your heath

 

Unite is urging workers not to risk their health if they are not supplied with the correct PPE.

 

Silica is a natural substance found in varying amounts in most rocks, sand and clay. For example, sandstone contains more than 70% silica, whereas granite might contain 15-30%. Silica is also a major constituent of construction materials such as bricks, tiles, concrete and mortar.

 

Dust is generated from these materials during many common construction tasks. These include cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing. Some of this dust is fine enough to get deep into your lungs. The fine dust is known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and is too fine to see with normal lighting. It is commonly called silica or silica dust. It was responsible for  the death of over 500 construction workers in 2005. In addition to the risks from lung cancer, silica is also linked to other serious lung diseases.

 

PPE shortage in Covid-19 pandemic

 

The union’s warning follows the revelation that many contractors are struggling to purchase the appropriate dust masks. The shortage is understood to be a result of the vastly increased demand for face masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

 

Unite national officer Jerry Swain said: Workers must not place their health at risk.

 

 “If PPE is required and the correct masks are not available then work has to be delayed until they can be sourced. Workers must not feel pressurised into taking shortcuts with their safety.

 

Risk assessment

 

 “If a worker is at all uncertain about whether they require PPE they must request to see an appropriate risk assessment. If they still believe it is unsafe, an employee legally has a right to remove themselves from a dangerous situation.

 

 “Unite will fully support a member who declines to work due to safety concerns.

 

 “Clearly most responsible employers will follow the rules and reschedule work but there remains too many rogue employers who are willing to risk the health of their workers.

 

 “It is all too easy to forget because of the pandemic that there are many reasons why an appropriate mask may be required while undertaking construction work other than preventing the spread of Covid-19.

 

 “Even when you are socially distancing you may still need to wear a mask because of the dangerous nature of the work being undertaken.”

 

For health and safety resources see our tool kit.

 

 

June 29th 2020

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