HSE ebulletin: HSE is inspecting manufacturing business where materials that contain silica are used

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Act now to protect your workers from fatal lung disease

HSE is inspecting manufacturing business where materials that contain silica are used

Silica is a natural substance found in most stone, rocks, sand and clay. When these materials are processed in manufacturing, respirable crystalline silica (RCS) particles can become airborne.


If breathed in, these particles can cause irreversible lung disease which can prove fatal.

Managing the health risks in the manufacturing sector

Every year, around 12,000 people die from work-related lung diseases linked to past exposure to hazardous substances at work in Great Britain. This includes the inhalation of RCS, or silica dust, which can be created through manufacturing processes.


These deaths are preventable if exposure to the risks is effectively controlled.    


Silica particles are produced during many manufacturing tasks. Brick and tile manufacture, ceramics, stone working, manufacture of kitchen worktops and foundry work can all produce silica particles in airborne dust which are too small to be seen.


By breathing it in, you and your workers could develop the following lung diseases: 

  • Silicosis
    Silicosis makes breathing more difficult and increases the risk of lung infections. Silicosis usually follows exposure over many years, but extremely high exposures can lead rapidly to ill health

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    COPD is a group of lung diseases, including bronchitis and emphysema, resulting in severe breathlessness, prolonged coughing and chronic disability. It can be very disabling and is a leading cause of death

  • Lung cancer
    Heavy and prolonged exposure to RCS dust can cause lung cancer.  When someone already has silicosis, there is an increased risk of lung cancer. 

Watch our short video on silicosis where HSE’s Chief Medical Advisor, Professor David Fishwick, explains more about this disease.


Refreshed guidance and targeted manufacturing inspections

From October, HSE Inspectors will be visiting manufacturing business where materials such as stone, rocks, sand and clay are used. This will include: 

  • Brick and tile manufacturers 
  • Foundries  
  • Stone working  

Employers have a legal duty to put in place suitable arrangements to manage health and safety and ensure they comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).


Inspectors will be checking that dutyholders know the risks associated with inhalation of RCS and have effective controls in place to keep workers safe and protect their respiratory health. 


View our refreshed silica guidance for manufacturing and foundries to ensure you are protecting your workers’ health: 

Further information

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