Silica dust exposure in the flooring industry: Risks and prevention

2 August, 2023

There is a lot of discussion circulating at the moment about the dangers of dust exposure to those working in the construction industry. HSE is currently running their ‘Dust Kills’ campaign which has featured in the press and on social media too. As an industrial and commercial flooring company, TPS360 and its staff understand the importance of taking measures to prevent silica dust exposure in the workplace. Silica dust is a harmful by-product that is produced when working with silica-containing materials such as concrete, mortar, and sandstone, and can lead to serious health conditions such as silicosis, lung cancer, and COPD if inhaled over an extended period.

What is Silica Dust?

Silica is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in many types of rock and soil. When these materials are disturbed, such as during grinding, cutting, drilling, or blasting, silica dust can be released into the air. Silica dust is so small that it cannot be seen with the naked eye, but when it is inhaled, it can lodge deep in the lungs and cause serious health problems.
Risks of Silica Dust Exposure in the Flooring Industry
Workers in the flooring industry are at risk of silica dust exposure when they work with materials that contain silica, such as concrete, mortar, and sandstone. Silica dust exposure can occur during a variety of flooring activities, including:

  • Grinding or cutting concrete
  • Removing old coatings or adhesives
  • Preparing a surface for a new floor covering
  • Sanding or polishing wood floors
  • When silica dust is inhaled, it can cause a variety of health problems, including:
  • Silicosis: a progressive and incurable lung disease that can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain.
  • Lung cancer: a type of cancer that starts in the lungs and can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): a group of lung diseases that make it difficult to breathe.

Prevention of Silica Dust Exposure

To minimise the risk of silica dust exposure, TPS360 and its staff take several precautions. Firstly, they wear the correct respiratory and personal protective equipment, such as dust masks and gloves, to protect themselves from the harmful effects of silica dust. Additionally, TPS360 uses specialised equipment, such as Husqvarna dust extractors, to capture dust at the source, thus reducing the amount of silica dust that its site-based workforce is exposed to.

Training Provided

Training plays a crucial role in ensuring that TPS360’s staff is well-prepared to protect themselves from silica dust exposure. As part of our commitment to safety, TPS360 has implemented comprehensive training programmes that encompass various aspects of respiratory protection.

One significant aspect of the training is Face-Fit testing, which ensures that the respiratory protective equipment (RPE) fits properly and provides an effective seal. TPS360 has taken the initiative to have its management and senior management team undergo Face-Fit trainer testing. This means that within each area of the business, there is a qualified person responsible for carrying out face fit testing. Wayne Hamilton covers the Tamworth regions, whilst Scott Barclay and Sam Barclay cover Wales & Southwest regions. In addition, Lee Jones covers our Projects division.

By implementing these rigorous training measures, TPS360 ensures that its staff is well-equipped and knowledgeable in using RPE effectively. This comprehensive approach to training emphasizes the company’s commitment to the safety and well-being of its employees in the face of silica dust exposure risks.

Safe Work Practices

All staff follow safe work practices to minimise their exposure to silica dust. This includes using the correct tools and equipment, avoiding dry sweeping, using a wet method instead, and ensuring that the work area is well-ventilated.

In conclusion, TPS360 and its staff take silica dust exposure seriously and are committed to minimising the risk of exposure in the workplace. By following proper safety procedures and using the right tools and equipment, we work together to prevent life-changing lung diseases.

As part of its commitment to safe work practices, TPS360 pays great attention to the maintenance and efficiency of its equipment. This is particularly crucial when it comes to their site equipment, including their fleet of HTC floor grinders and vacuums.

TPS360 ensures that all its site equipment is serviced within the required timescales to guarantee that it operates at its maximum potential and efficiency. This proactive approach helps to maintain the effectiveness of the equipment, especially in the case of Husqvarna floor grinders and vacuums, which are essential for flooring projects.

In addition, TPS360 has invested in a fleet of six Husqvarna A2000 air scrubbers. These air scrubbers are high-performance industrial air cleaners that have been tested and certified for use both as air cleaners and negative air machines. With a maximum airflow of 2000 m³/h, these air scrubbers are among the most advanced portable air cleaners available on the market today.

By utilising the Husqvarna A2000 air scrubbers, TPS360 can effectively capture and remove any residual dust from the environment. They can be used individually or in pairs, depending on the specific requirements of the project. This proactive measure ensures that the work environment remains clean and free from potential silica dust contamination, further safeguarding the health and well-being of the staff.
By prioritising regular equipment servicing and utilising advanced air scrubbers, TPS360 demonstrates its dedication as a trusted industrial and commercial flooring company to maintaining a safe and dust-controlled work environment.

Ensuring Safety

Ensuring the safety of their staff is a top priority for TPS360, and this extends to the selection and use of personal protective equipment (PPE). In this regard, TPS360 has recently implemented a single mask type for the entire business, the JSP Force 8. This mask has proven to be highly effective in providing reliable protection against silica dust exposure.

One of the notable advantages of the JSP Force 8 mask is its availability in various sizes, catering to different facial types. This ensures that there is a suitable mask for every worker, as finding the right fit is crucial for optimal protection. TPS360 has conducted tests with their operatives, and so far, every operative has passed the fit test with the JSP Force 8 mask.

Another benefit of the JSP Force 8 mask is its interchangeable filters. Instead of replacing the entire mask, TPS360 only needs to replace the filters every month. This not only reduces costs but also allows for the mask to be cleaned and reused after the filters are removed. The ability to clean and reuse the mask enhances its longevity and cost-effectiveness.

To further enhance safety, the JSP Force 8 mask incorporates a press-to-check function. This feature enables the operator to easily check if the mask is fully fitted and sealed, providing them with the assurance that they are properly protected. By allowing workers to verify the integrity of their masks before each use, TPS360 ensures that safety is always prioritised.

Through the implementation of the JSP Force 8 mask with its customisable fit, interchangeable filters, and press-to-check function, TPS360 demonstrates their commitment to providing its staff with reliable and effective PPE. These measures play a crucial role in safeguarding the health and well-being of workers in the face of potential silica dust exposure for industrial and commercial flooring companies.

Monitoring Dust Levels

Monitoring dust levels is an essential aspect of TPS360’s commitment to ensuring a safe and compliant work environment. To facilitate this, the company has invested in the Monitex Air XD one air monitor, a state-of-the-art monitoring device specifically designed for monitoring dust levels in real time.
The Monitex Air XD one air monitor is programmed and set up to provide live monitoring of dust levels on-site. It is capable of detecting silica dust particles and has a built-in alarm system that alerts the operators once the daily exposure limit to silica dust has been reached. The monitor also records and stores all the information processed throughout the day, which can be easily downloaded for further analysis and reporting purposes.

By utilising the air monitor, TPS360 can report back to the site team and clients, ensuring that the work is carried out in a safe and compliant manner. The live monitoring capability allows for immediate action to be taken if dust levels exceed acceptable limits, preventing prolonged exposure and potential health risks to the workers.

TPS360 has conducted live testing of their daily tasks and processes, utilising the air monitor to measure dust levels during different activities. Based on the results, adjustments have been made where necessary to ensure compliance with safety regulations. These tests have provided valuable insights into which safety measures are required for specific processes. For example, they have determined when dust masks should be worn when air scrubbers are needed, the number of air scrubbers required, and how environmental conditions, such as excessive winds or confined spaces, can impact the work being carried out.

By actively monitoring dust levels and adjusting work processes based on the data collected, TPS360 demonstrates their proactive approach to ensuring the safety of its staff. This meticulous monitoring and evaluation contribute to maintaining a safe work environment and help to identify and address potential risks associated with silica dust exposure.

View our case studies

Here is a selection of projects that we have completed in a number of different industry sectors. They demonstrate the expertise and professionalism that we bring to find a solution to each challenge.