A cross-party parliamentary inquiry into silicosis and its impact on construction workers has been begun.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Respiratory Health launched the inquiry on 9 July, working alongside not-for-profit organisation B&CE, and has called for evidence from experts and others with an interest in respiratory health.

Calls for evidence close on 31 August 2019.

Silicosis is a serious occupational lung disease caused by the long-term inhalation of large amounts of tiny particles of silica dust.

It is preventable when the correct precautions are taken; but the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says silicosis is the second biggest risk to the health of construction workers.

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Silica is used in a variety of industries including construction, stonemasonry, sand blasting, mining and glass-cutting. It is typically found in concrete, bricks and stone.

When these are cut or broken down silica dust is released and can cause chronic respiratory problems and, in some cases, lung cancer.

Every year, there are avoidable deaths resulting from silicosis with between 10 and 20 people dying every year from silicosis over the last decade. 

Gregg McClymont, B&CE’s director of policy, said: “Silicosis is a serious issue for the construction industry – hugely impacting worker’s lives – but still largely goes undetected.”

The APPG chair Jim Shannon MP said: “Silicosis is a particular danger for construction workers; causing many to suffer chronic and debilitating breathing difficulties, while claiming the lives of others.

“We are delighted to be working with B&CE, which is conducting pioneering work to help the APPG further understand the cause and effect of this terrible disease.

The findings will be presented to government later this year with recommendations which, said Shannon, “we hope will help to prevent it in the first place and assist patients with the best treatment and management of the disease”.

Just after the inquiry was launched, Lancashire landscaping contractor Playscape Design Limited was fined £20,000 by the HSE after admitting health and safety breaches which led to the exposure of respirable crystalline silica.

At an unannounced HSE inspection, two of the company’s employees were found to be cutting flagstones using a power tool without any respiratory protective equipment.

It can take many years for the symptoms of silicosis to manifest themselves.

 

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