Hazards of Respirable Crystalline Silica in Industrial Sectors


Among the many health hazards associated with working in industrial sectors such as stonemasonry, construction and quarrying is extended exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS). In fact, the well-documented risks caused by RCS over the years have become so alarming that they have caught the attention of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – but what exactly is RCS and why is it considered responsible for different occupational risks?

RCS Defined

Respirable Crystalline Silica or RCS is made up of small natural substances that are typically found in rock, sand and clay products. With particles that are of sub-micron size, RCS can easily enter the human body and penetrate the lungs. Exposure to RCS can be dangerous since it can cause lung-related illnesses that can disable workers.

Health Risks of RCS

Key industry sectors with most RCS exposure include:

  • Brickworks and tile manufacture
  • Stonemasonry
  • Quarrying
  • Construction

Once RCS has been inhaled, it can lead to fatal diseases such as:

  • Silicosis – this complication takes place after excessive lung exposure to RCS. It scars and damages the lung tissues which can lead to irreversible complications – from shortness of breath to heart failure.
  • Cancer in different organs – since RCS contains carcinogens, different organs are more susceptible to cancer. According to HSE research, 450 out of 600 deaths from RCS-related lung cancers are from the construction sector.
  • Respiratory diseases – emphysema, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and impaired lung function are just a few of the illnesses caused by RCS.

Combatting Risks Caused by RCS

To prevent the various health risks caused by RCS in different industries, there is a workplace exposure limit (WEL) set in Britain. Here are some of the risk prevention strategies set by the HSE:

Inclusion of More Information about RCS Exposure

Letting your workers attend vocational training about RCS exposure allows them to be more aware of their safety at work. HSE also disseminates leaflets to raise RCS awareness –  also giving information on the further dangers it can cause.

Use and Maintenance of Dust Suppressors and Dust Extraction Systems

Adding dust control solutions can significantly minimise workers’ exposure to RCS, while minimising RCS-related health risks.

Health Surveillance in Key Industry Sectors

Keeping track of the industries where RCS exposure is common makes it easier to identify other RCS-related risks – allowing the development of more prevention strategies.

AirBench FP & RP: Your Solution for RCS Extraction

Specially designed for stone dust extraction, AirBench has two workbench options that can actively minimise RCS exposure:

  • FP type with ‘A’ type filters – suitable for lighter duty applications, it has a single stage filter system that is ideal for the reduction of dust levels.
  • RP type – includes an automated filter cleaning system which removes maintenance tasks from the operator, thus making them fit for larger dust volumes.

With the right knowledge and proper precautionary measures, you can keep your employees’ safe from different hazards. To create a safer and more productive working environment, AirBench offers solutions for stone dust extraction that will reduce the RCS occupational risk factor. For more information about our products, please call 01206 791191.