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HSE Inspections in October – targeting silica

Does your business use materials that can potentially contain silica?  Would you be ready for a visit from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in October?

Starting next month, the HSE will be visiting manufacturing businesses using materials that can contain silica such as stone, rocks, sand and clay.  Businesses being targeted for visits are likely to include:

  • Foundries
  • Stone Working
  • Brick and tile manufacturers

Silica can be present as amorphous or respirable crystalline silica (RCS).  Amorphous silica has a lower Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) than general dusts at 6 mg/m3 but RCS has a WEL of only 0.1 mg/m3

However, in 2017 the European Council voted to classify this substance as a carcinogen.  In light of its reclassification, the risk assessments for processes leading to its generation should be reviewed and amended accordingly. Although the WEL for RCS remained at 0.1 mg/m3 for now, businesses should be aiming to reduce exposure to as low as reasonably practicable. It is anticipated that the WEL may be reviewed and reduced in the future.

The HSE has recently updated their Direct Advice Sheets for a number of affected industries. A selection can be found at:

Brick and tile silica – COSHH e-tool (

Foundry – COSHH e-tool (

Stoneworkers – COSHH e-tool (


In general, engineering controls should be in place to protect the workforce.  In practice:

  • Suitable and effective LEV (local exhaust ventilation) in place, with kit being maintained, examined and tested as necessary and, most importantly, being used every day.
  • Risk assessments for occupational health conditions must be in place, up to date, suitable and sufficient.
  • Training the workforce on the hazards as well as good cleaning and hygiene practices. Good practice and protocols need to be in place for eating and drinking in areas where the hazard exists.
  • Where RPE (respiratory protective equipment) has to be used, it needs to be the right sort (P3), with face-fit testing undertaken for tight fitting face piece masks. HSE may request face-fit records, check the wearer is using it correctly and examine the inside for visible dust.

There also needs to be adequate storage of kit in work areas so employees can leave their RPE in clean conditions; no storing masks and clothing on dusty, dirty surfaces.

  • Training on the use and maintenance of RPE has to be given to all employees who will wear it.
  • Working practices such as dry sweeping or the casual use of airlines for cleaning everything down to be avoided.
  • Management has a duty of care to ensure all this is in place and is being actively followed on a daily basis, for as long as the processes generating RCS and exposures are in operation.


Businesses should ask themselves:

– Do we know the risks associated with respirable crystalline silica (RCS)?

– Do we have effective controls in place?


Please contact us on 0114 243 9914 if you need any further advice or support.

By Trevor HallidayEnvironmental Specialist

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