Crackdown on construction products with silica


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is cracking down on building materials companies and their control measures against silica dust. 

Worker cutting granite.

HSE inspectors will visit brick and tile makers and foundries across the UK to check that businesses have control measures to protect workers from silica exposure. 

Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is a natural substance found in granite (15-30%) and sandstone (70%) according to the HSE.

In construction, RCS is found in bricks, tiles, concrete and mortar, and workers can create RCS dust when cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing tasks. 


Around 600,000 workers are exposed to silica in the UK, with most of those workers in construction and manufacturing, according to the British Safety Council. 

RCS can lead to several respiratory diseases, including silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

The HSE found in 2021 that 12,000 lung disease deaths each year are linked to past exposure to dust and chemicals at work. 

Employer responsibility 

Employers are legally required to make provisions that manage airborne contaminants, according to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

These provisions include: 

  • Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV). 
  • Water suppression and air purifiers, where it is needed. 
  • Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), including face masks and breathing apparatus. 

Inspectors will seek evidence that employers have considered these factors in their control measures. 

If the HSE discovers any health and safety breaches, they will take enforcement action to protect affected workers. 

The checks began this week and will run together with the HSE’s Dust Kills campaign, where silica and wood dust checks will run until 14 July

“It’s important that manufacturing businesses act now to ensure they comply with the law and protect their workers from serious lung diseases,” said HSE’s head of manufacturing, David Butter.  

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