Inquiry into impact of silicosis on construction workers launched

9 July 2019

Image: Dreamstime/Piotr Trojanowski

MPs have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of silicosis – a life-shortening lung disease that is the second biggest health risk to construction workers after asbestos.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Respiratory Health is working with not-for-profit financial services firm B&CE to understand why construction workers’ lives continue to be claimed by silicosis caused by silica, which is commonly found in stone, bricks and concrete.

Construction workers who cut or break these materials are exposed to this can suffer from chronic breathing difficulties, leading to avoidable deaths each year.

The inquiry will see the APPG work with B&CE to call on expert clinicians, campaigners, industry bodies, academics and government to help ministers gain a greater understanding of the disease, to discover more about the financial burden it places on the NHS and the challenges it presents to productivity in the workplace.

Jim Shannon MP, chair of the APPG on Respiratory Health said: “Silicosis is a particular danger for construction workers; causing many to suffer chronic and debilitating breathing difficulties, while claiming the lives of others.

“We are delighted to be working with B&CE, which is conducting pioneering work to help the APPG further understand the cause and effect of this terrible disease.

“We will be presenting our findings to the government later in the year along with recommendations, which we hope will help to prevent it in the first place and assist patients with the best treatment and management of the disease.”

Gregg McClymont, the director of policy at B&CE, said: “Silicosis is a serious issue for the construction industry – hugely impacting worker’s lives - but still largely goes undetected. It’s caused by inhalation of tiny particles, released by activities like cutting bricks as well as using cement and other building products which leads to the loss of lung capacity. But this is a preventable condition if the correct precautions are taken.

“We’re calling on experts to submit evidence over the summer which we’ll use as the basis for recommendations to the government.

“We encourage anyone interested in respiratory health to contribute to the inquiry.”

Calls for evidence are open from today and close on 31 August 2019.


I always find these inquiries and the groups that are formed because of them, are just a drain on the resources for those who need to be educated in the use of the product or in the treatment of the diseases they cause.
The issues caused by hard building products from any of the many concrete, brick, block or sand and stone products are well known within the construction industry and the medical profession.
Did we not learn anything from the issues caused by Asbestos, which are still taking the lives of many in the UK. Silicoses causes the same problems as Asbestosis, even the names are very similar. Unless there is legislation in place to eliminate, or as a very minimum reduce the levels of silica dust in the workplace very little will be done to change the methods that are used on site, or change the product in such a way as to reduce its effects on humans

Education is where we should start, many in the construction industry are told to wet cut and use dust masks, they are not told WHY they should protect themselves and others, and many are not fully aware of the dangers of the products they are dealing with daily.
Never mind your groups, let's start with educating those who are using these products today, and let's not do what we did with Asbestos, it was well known by many groups for 50 years or more how dangerous Asbestos was, and still many died because of the delays caused with inquiries and groups.
Let's start with educating those who are exposed to the products and the potential it can cause to them and those about them.
Just one example, how many of you have been in any town or city where works have been going on to the paved areas and seen clouds of dust, operatives not using any form fo water suppression, and how many of you H&S professional say nothing and walk by.
Educate these operatives and their supervisors, not just what they have to do but, the implications to the others near them or the general public if they don't, a child in a buggy being pushed by the parent past a construction site where operatives are cutting these type of products, that child's lungs are at risk because of the lack of education.

Michael Hempsey , 9 July 2019

Upon starting in the construction industry I worked as an electrical apprentice where I was exposed to dust and fibreglass insulation and had numerous asthma attacks due to this. I’d been keen to understand going forward what is being proposed as it would be good to have this information available to protect apprentices and our workers going forward

Paul Madders, 9 July 2019

I agree 100 percent with Michael Hempsey. As one of those exposed to asbestos in the 60's, when the dangers were already well known, I find it hard to understand why strict controls are not imposed to prevent the cause of silicosis when the solution is so simple.

Tony Storer, 10 July 2019

Being in both the mining and building industry l was never in the earlier days given protection against dust, noise or any eyesight protection.
We were told to get on with it.
I now suffer from chronic COPD

Mervyn Bramall, 10 July 2019

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