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In the course of the day to day activities, man is faced with numerous challenges right from the areas in which they live to the areas in which they live. These challenges in most of the cases always lead to a danger that is posed to the people who are exposed to these risks; it is therefore very important to identify the substances to which if one is exposed, there is a possibility of their health being affected.
The risks that. Occupational risks are those risks that are experienced at the workplace; one of the distinct characteristics of the occupational risks is that they are the risks that are likely to face the workers in the working environment (Chen et al., 2006). Therefore the occupational risks are calculated based on the total time of exposure that has been identified for the identified risks.
In the determination of the human health risks at the workplace it is also very important to consider the nature and extent of the damage that might be caused by exposure to these risks at the workplace; the ecological risk assessments are meant to consider the health risks in relation to animals and insects (Chen et al., 2006).
They are used to determine the extent to which the human health may be affected by the exposure to these insects as well as extent to which the health of the humans is affected by these risks. The major difference that exists between the occupational risks and the ecological risk assessment is the human exposure to occupational hazards can be considered over a given period of time per day whereas the ecological exposure for the insects and animals may be different.
One of the substances that have been classified as a health hazard at the workplace is Silica dust; silica is found in many of the materials that human beings interact with in the course of their day to day activities. It is worth noting that although Silica as a substance is not harmful, Silica dust has been known to cause many health problems such as silicosis which is an occupational disease.
Occupational risks are the risks that result from exposure to the identified health hazard while at the work place; this hazard is easy to quantify because it is usually based on the time in which the exposed person is at the workplace.
However non-occupational exposure to silica dust does occur and it is not easy to quantify; this may be due to sand storms or desert dust, dust from factories, or industrial activities which involve the use of silica as a raw material (Berry, Rogers & Yeung, 2004). In this case the people living in the surrounding area may end up being affected by the silica dust.
Silica has often been identified due to fact that prolonged exposure to Silica dust can cause silicosis as well as lung cancer, in some cases, this exposure can also lead to increased chances of contacting a kidney disease. The occupational exposure to the silica dust has been found to be most prevalent in the foundries, the ceramic industries, brick making, the quarry industry, construction industry and stone Masonry.
Acceptable Exposure Limits for Silica Dust
The exposure limits for silica dust that are acceptable at the workplace for silica dust has been set at 0.1 mg/m3. It is worth noting that this exposure limit is for the respirable crystalline silica (RCS). This has been set as the Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) which the workers can be exposed to in the course of their work at the workplace (Chen et al., 2006).
In this regard therefore, the concentration limits for silica dust at the workplace ought not to exceed these limits at the workplace at any one given time. In essence therefore the concentration of silica dust at the workplace should be kept as low as possible for the benefit of the workers.
It is very important to be able to identify the materials that contain the crystalline silica and one of the methods that can be used in the identification of these substances is the material safety data sheet. This is a requirement so that all the materials that contain crystalline silica ought to be accompanied by Material Safety Data sheets; these will help in the identification of Silica as a hazardous substance.
This data sheet should contain information on the name of the product, the chemical and physical properties of the product as well as the health hazards that are related with the use of the product (Berry, Rogers & Yeung, 2004). There should also be clear instructions on the safe use of the products and the name of the manufacturer or importers and their contacts should be clearly shown so that it is possible to contact them in case a clarification is required.
Assessment of the risks related to Silica Dust Exposure
It is very important to assess all the possible risks that are associated to silica dust at the work place and this involves the use of Material Safety Data Sheet, this not only gives information on the health risks that are associate with the silica dust, but also the controls that can be put in place to deal with these emissions.
After this the next step involves an examination of the work processes that involve the use of the materials that contain silica; this examination will help to determine the extent to which the workers are exposed to the dust that contains the respirable crystalline silica (Berry, Rogers & Yeung, 2004). The next step involves acting on the results of the assessment on the levels of exposure.
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After the assessment it is very important to ensure that it is important to come up with a risk assessment record; this record is critical in determining and listing down all the risks that are related to the health of the workers, it also lists down the significance of the risk, the best way to control the risk and the means for carrying out monitoring and health surveillance for the workers.
The last step might involve a process of monitoring the whole process. The process of monitoring will involve a process of sampling to come up with a comparison between the conditions to which the worker is exposed and the allowable exposure limits that are permitted by the regulating authority.
It is important to address the problem of health hazards at the workplace; silica dust is both an occupational and non-occupational health hazard which needs to be clearly addressed. This is to ensure that the health of the workers at the workplace and any others who might be exposed to the silica dust is addressed effectively.
Silica dust causes silicosis, lung cancer and in some cases kidney problems. However, with a proper risk assessment as well as risk monitoring process for the silica dust it is possible to control and address the issue of silica dust as a health hazard.
Berry, G. Rogers, A. & Yeung, P. (2004). Silicosis and lung cancer: a mortality study of compensated men with silicosis in New South Wales, Australia. Occupational Medicine (Lond), 54, 387.
Chen, W. Yang, J. Chen, J. & Bruch, J. (2006). Exposures to silica mixed dust and cohort mortality study in tin mines: exposure-response analysis and risk assessment of lung cancer. American Journal Industrial Medicine, 49(2), 67.