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TEAM Talks: Urgent Action Needed to Combat Rising Cases of Silicosis

Urgent Action Needed to Combat Rising Cases of Silicosis

Monday  25th March, 2024

Illustration by TEAM Safety Services Ltd.


In recent years, a concerning trend has emerged in the UK kitchen refurbishment industry: the rise of Silicosis among younger workers handling engineered stone worktops. Silicosis, an incurable lung disease caused by inhaling Crystalline Silica particles (a mineral found in stone), poses a severe threat to the health and well-being of those in the construction sector. The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) is now urging immediate action to prevent further cases and safeguard the lives of workers.


According to recent reports from the Royal Brompton Hospital, at least 3 confirmed cases of silicosis have been identified, signalling a disturbing development in workplace health hazards. This revelation comes just weeks after a Government Minister denied in Parliament the prevalence of Silicosis cases in the UK, highlighting the urgency of addressing this issue and misinformation about the deadly disease.


The danger lies in the handling of engineered stone worktops, so people who manufacture, fit, and demolish kitchens are at higher risk. This is because inhaling the dust is what makes it deadly. Dust can be produced when the engineered stone worktops are cut, drilled, demolished, sanded, shovelled, or swept.

Illustration by TEAM Safety Services Ltd.


Despite the ban of engineered stone in Australia due to widespread exposure and emergency regulatory actions in the United States, the UK has seen a significant surge in the use of engineered stone, particularly in kitchens, with a 75% increase reported in 2020 alone.


BOHS, renowned for its expertise in occupational health, emphasises the importance of implementing effective dust control measures to mitigate exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS). Water suppression of dust and other standard controls can significantly reduce the risk of Silicosis. However, proper implementation of these measures is essential as Silicosis is incurable, the damage cannot be reversed but can quite easily be prevented. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, and increased risk of Tuberculosis and Lung Cancer. There is also a risk of developing Kidney Disease and Arthritis (and other related diseases).


BOHS President, Alex Wilson, underscores the need for heightened awareness and medical surveillance within the engineered stone industry:


Sadly, there is reasonable probability that there are more cases that have not been detected or reported. Accurate diagnosis of Silicosis is difficult, and it can easily mistaken for a more common complaint, Sarcoidosis, for example. BOHS President, Alex Wilson


Wilson stresses the importance of seeking expert advice from occupational safety specialists to ensure adequate protection for workers.


Professor Kevin Bampton, BOHS Chief Executive, reinforces the Society's commitment to strengthening guidance provided by regulatory bodies like the Health and Safety Executive. By advocating for effective controls and promoting awareness of workplace risks, BOHS aims to prevent future cases of Silicosis and uphold the health and safety of workers in the construction industry.


In addition to the risks associated with RCS exposure, concerns regarding metal additives and resin toxicity in engineered stone further increase the need for comprehensive safety measures.


As the UK continues to grapple with the rising prevalence of Silicosis, proactive measures, education, and legislative support are crucial in safeguarding the well-being of workers and preventing needless suffering and loss of life. We must prioritise the protection of workers and ensure that no life is needlessly endangered in the pursuit of progress and productivity.

TEAM Safety Services Ltd. Dust Awareness eLearning 


As a trusted provider of occupational health and safety solutions, TEAM Safety Services is committed to empowering organisations with the knowledge and tools they need to promote a culture of safety and well-being.


Our Dust Awareness eLearning course allows workers and employers alike to take proactive steps to protect themselves and others from the hazards of dust exposure. Through interactive modules, learners will find out about the hidden dangers of dust, different types of dust they may encounter at work, like Crystalline Silica, Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), and the harmful impact of dust on health. Learners will gain insight into the symptoms of Silicosis, the importance of early detection, and the long-term consequences of exposure.


With comprehensive training and the implementation of effective dust control measures, we can mitigate the threat of Silicosis and create a healthier, safer workplace for all.


Use the discount code '24for2024' at checkout for 24% off all eLearning Courses


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