In recent months, there has been a growing awareness of the dangers of silica exposure in the workplace. Silica is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in many common construction materials, such as tiles, concrete, and mortar. When these materials are cut, drilled, or sanded, silica dust can be released into the air, posing a serious health risk to workers who inhale it.
Exposure to silica dust can lead to a variety of respiratory problems, including silicosis, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a result, there has been a push in the construction industry to raise awareness of the dangers of silica and to promote safety measures that can help to minimize exposure.
If you work in the construction industry, it’s important to understand the risks associated with silica exposure and to take appropriate precautions to protect yourself. By doing so, you can help to prevent serious respiratory problems and ensure your safety on the job.
Silica & Tiles
Tiles often contain silica because it is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in many types of rock and soil. Silica is an essential component of many construction materials, including tiles, because it helps to increase the strength and durability of the material. When silica is combined with other materials, such as clay, it can help to create a strong and durable tile that is resistant to wear and tear.
However, when tiles are cut, drilled, or sanded, silica dust can be released into the air, posing a serious risk to workers’ health. It is important for workers to take appropriate precautions when working with tiles to avoid inhaling silica dust and prevent respiratory problems.
Silica Content in Common Construction Materials
To provide a better understanding of the amount of silica found in common construction materials, here is a table that shows the percentage of silica by weight in various materials, including tiles, concrete, sandstone, engineered stone and more.
As you can see, engineered stone can contain over 90% silica by weight, making it a high-risk material for silica exposure. It’s important for workers who handle engineered stone to take appropriate precautions to avoid inhaling silica dust.
Preventing Silica Exposure
To prevent silica exposure when working with tiles, it is important to use appropriate tools and techniques.
It is important to wear appropriate respiratory protection when working with tiles to avoid inhaling silica dust. Respiratory masks that are rated for silica dust are necessary to prevent exposure. It is also important to properly clean workspaces and tools after working with tiles to avoid any residual dust or debris.
Cutting tiles is an essential part of the tile installation process, but it can also pose a health risk to workers if proper precautions are not taken.
To minimise the risk of silica exposure, it’s important to avoid dry cutting or grinding with an electric grinder and use methods such as score and snap cutting or wet cutting whenever possible.
By following general safety tips and taking necessary precautions, workers can work with tiles safely and prevent the health risks associated with inhaling silica dust.