Recently, we had a potential on-site issue regarding silica. Our vigorous safety measures and on-site checking process kicked in and all is now fine. The way we approached our potential issue comes very naturally to us – we consider it a part of everyday contracting – but recently we have been dismayed about the number of times we have noted contractors simply ignoring the rules. I say ignoring, as with the wealth of information and H&S training good contractors receive, simply not knowing the law is not the case. We all have deadlines, but there are several rules you simply do not ignore, and exposure to silica is one of them.

Life is tough so attempting DIY home/domestic projects, even small landlord works, yourself with a view to cost saving is understandable. It is so easy to hire or purchase the perceived tools for the job, and many will supply you with the means but not the knowledge or required safety training. So it is unsurprising we notice these sectors breaching the rules.

With this in mind, I don’t need to repeat all the information that’s freely available online, but feel the need to ‘poke & prompt’, if only as a respectful reminder to those that should know, and as a heads-up to those that don’t. As with most Health & Safety matters, we all have personal responsibility.

I also applaud my staff. Recently they have stopped to question contractors breaching the rules, even though they are open to a prickly response. However, they have found a great way of approaching this subject. Stop, take a video of the works (normally a cloud of dust), then take video of the vans, which are usually sign-written, then the registration number.

When done, they find the site manager and ask “Why are you allowing unsafe practices, putting all at risk?” If they attempt to fob them off, then they politely say “I have video evidence, so we can either send to your HO or directly to HSE or even both”. It is amazing how IF IT COMES TO THIS, the site manager’s training suddenly kicks in and they act very fast. They know!

It is not our intention to catch every contractor, or to do HSE inspections for them. However, we owe it to everyone – the baby in the pram, the jogger trying to get fit, the old couple out for a stroll AND the workman carrying out his task. We all have collective aims to keep safe, so About Time Solutions Ltd staff continue to be vigilant. Inhaling silica can cause silicosis, a disease is not curable at this point in time, but it can be prevented with the right precautions and taking some responsibility.

Silicosis can also increase the risk of other serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, including:

For those wanting to gain an idea what silica is and how it affects the body, watch the video above; it is well done and only a couple of minutes long. It excellently explains the deadly process from exposure to death without the need for real-life graphic lung images. Well worth a view.

This second video is not about what you should or shouldn’t do, it is more about the devastation it has on ordinary people and their families. It is 3 minutess long and made in America, but the reason I have selected this from numerous choices online is the opening sequence. It just amazes me that, back in 1938 (before both Great Wars), we were ‘aware’ of silica and the effects.

Seems to me we need another ‘poke & prompt’!

Bob Turner, MD