Crystalline silica quartz has a serious health issue. Many of you have not heard of NEPSI, neither have the slightest idea of what it stands for. Well I’m sure you all are aware of the health dangerous behind the use of silica, and today it’s used in several industries, being engineered stone one of them with great exposure. Also granite workshops and other types of materials have similar health hazards issues.
So NEPSI is a European network for silica, on the 26th of April of 2006 and important agreement was attained between employers and employees the “Agreement on Workers’ Health Protection Through the Good Handling and Use of Crystalline Products and Products Containing It”. This is a true landmark for health issues regarding the use of Crystalline Silica or as some may frequently see it chemically as SiO2.
Although crystalline silica is little harmful in it’s natural environment, truth is that in a dust state if inhaled it can be very harmful for ones health. And when we look at engineered quartz or granite, and the way it’s fabricated, great hazards may arise if the fabricating units are not of aware of these dangers.
The agreement that I mentioned involves several industries, however every fabricating unit for stone is included and my effort goes towards these fabricating units to prevent dangerous to the workers. The main danger is for the worker who inhales the dust that normally originates from the cutting of the countertop or other cut-to-size pieces.
But the danger of inhalation may also occur at the installation point, frequently, adjustments have to be made, and small adjustments are made locally in your home, in your kitchen, and anyone who is exposed will inhale this dust that is extremely dangerous to human health.
The consequences of inhalation of this type of dust can in time cause irritations or inflammations of the upper respiratory system, may cause bronchitis, inflammation of the bronchia and of the pulmonary tissues. These cases facilitate the deployment of the harmful effect of toxic, carcinogenic and allergenic dust particles, that occur in the respiratory passages to other organs of the human body. Cancer is a harsh word to use, but it is the main health hazard involved in this issue.
The protection against dangerous caused by silica dust have been in Europe with the Chemical Agents Directive 98/24/EC of 7/4/1998. Basically it indicates the necessity to substitute dangerous particles with others. Silica type substances as a raw material have not been able to be replaced in most of the industries and inclusive and increase in use has been noticed in the last few years, especially regarding the Engineered Stone sector.
It’s obvious if the dangerous silica dust can not be substituted then it must be, seriously accompanied by the employers involving their health and security personnel, applying measure and physical protection to the workers to minimize health hazards.
Some measures that should be taken:
- Protective respiratory masks should be worn at all times;
- Cutting should be done with water avoiding dust particles;
- Aspiration or vacuum units should be functioning to filter the air of the fabricating units;
- Workers should be aware of the dangerous involved in these operations
- Re-designing work processes to minimize the hazards involved
- The shop floor air should be tested frequently to ensure that the filtering systems are working properly and complying with safety measures
- Health Check-ups on personnel should be done frequently to ensure their safety and health
- All working procedures that involve health and safety are compulsatory, the ruling has to be taken to the limit;
- Cleaning of the workspace, avoid brooms, proper vacuum systems are advised with the proper disposal of the accumulated dust extracted by these equipments.