Workplace Hazards – Silicosis: What It Is and How to Avoid It?
Workplace hazards like electrical or fire accidents and machinery hazards can occur in a typical office setting and in construction or manufacturing industries as well. Life-threatening diseases can also be caused by exposure to dangerous chemicals like silica. Therefore, they need to be properly monitored and controlled by the employers for the health and safety of their workers.
For this kind of workplace hazard, it’s better for the company to regularly arrange silica awareness training sessions for the employees, so they are educated enough to easily manage, prevent, and control the health risks associated with it.
If you want to learn in detail about silicosis and how you can avoid it, keep reading this article!
What Is Silicosis and What Causes It?
Silicosis is a lung disease, and it is caused by inhaling tiny dust particles of silica or silicon dioxide. When silica is inhaled, it causes inflammation and scarring of the lungs. Of course, when lungs get damaged, they aren’t able to function optimally.
Silica is found in different kinds of sand, stone, and rock. So, any kind of occupation that deals with the handling and usage of these materials can cause silicosis over the years.
Usually, the following industries carry a greater risk of silicosis:
- Mining and quarrying
- Stone countertop manufacturing
- Stone cutting and stonework
- Production of pottery, glass, and ceramics
When workers carry out tasks like demolishing, drilling, mixing, sanding, grinding, and sweeping in these industries, the toxic dust particles can be carried into one’s body and others around them.
What Are the Symptoms of Silicosis?
The signs of silicosis may start to develop after a few months of extremely high exposure to silica or after anywhere between 5 and 20 years, depending on the severity of the exposure.
The three most common symptoms of silicosis are shortness of breath, weakness, and constant coughing.
If the condition gets worse, it may lead to other life-threatening conditions too such as kidney disease, lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension, chest infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
How Is Silicosis Diagnosed?
If you work in a silica-related industry, and you start noticing any of the symptoms of silicosis, it’s imperative that you immediately visit your general physician.
You may be asked to take some tests to confirm your condition, such as a chest CT scan or X-ray, spirometry, a tuberculosis test, and bronchoalveolar lavage.
Remember that there is no cure for silicosis. You can only manage the symptoms of this disease to help you lead a better quality of life. That’s why it’s important to get yourself checked as soon as the symptoms start to appear, so you can prevent them from worsening.
What Is the Treatment for Silicosis?
As mentioned above that this lung disease is irreversible, you can manage the symptoms by following these tips:
- Don’t smoke
- Completely prevent further exposure to silica
- Get flu and pneumonia vaccines annually
- Utilize supplemental oxygen
- Use bronchodilator medicines to improve your breathing
How to Avoid or Prevent Silicosis?
If you start working in a silica-related industry, it’s your employer’s responsibility to educate you on silicosis’s risks and prevention measures. They are also obliged to provide you with personal protective equipment like eye and face protection and respiratory protection to prevent any kind of exposure to this hazardous chemical.
As many countries are required to comply with laws to ensure the safety and well-being of workers, you may be also eligible for claiming compensation due to your employer’s negligence or fault if you get diagnosed with silicosis after working.
Other preventative measures are listed below:
- If the risk of working with silica is too high, it’s better to eliminate it by looking for safer alternatives.
- The employer should be able to control emissions of silica effectively by either opting for a better workplace design, changing the current procedures, or providing better ventilation.
- Training seminars should be held regularly to keep the employees’ industry knowledge updated and prevent future incidents.
- Persistent medical surveillance may also help in preventing the disease from getting worse. Regular medical checkups, clinical tests, record keeping, and health education should be mandatory.
- Personal hygiene facilities must be kept clean at all times along with eating facilities to minimize silica exposure.
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