Since 2018, works involving exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust generated by a work process are included in the European Carcinogens and Mutagens at Work Directive (Directive 2017/2398). A European Binding Occupational Exposure Limit Value of 0.1 mg/m³ is set in Annex III for respirable crystalline silica dust.
The Directive recognises in its Recital 19 that NEPSI good practices are “valuable and necessary instruments to complement regulatory measures and in particular to support the effective implementation of limit values”.
This section integrates the obligations of the Carcinogens and Mutagens at Work Directive and provides recommendations on when and how to apply the advice given in this Good Practice Guide to their specific circumstances.
Using a simple question and answer format, it will introduce basic risk management techniques that should be applied to workplace situations where persons may be exposed to respirable crystalline silica.
This Directive 2004/37/EC (and its amendments) aims at the protection of workers against risks to their health and safety arising or likely to arise from exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work.
Its obligations include:
Guidance will be given on:
How to assess whether there is a significant risk from exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
How to decide what type of control and prevention measures should be put in place to treat the risks that are identified – i.e. to eliminate them, or to reduce them to an acceptable level.
How to monitor the effectiveness of the control measures in place. How to monitor workers’ health.
What information, instruction and training should be provided to the workforce in order to educate them about the risks to which they may be exposed.
The risk management processes of Assessment, Control, Monitoring and Education make up the foundation of all European health and safety legislation, including the European Carcinogens and Mutagens at Work Directive.
Respirable crystalline silica enters the body when dust containing a proportion of crystalline silica is inhaled. When the particle size range of the dust is sufficiently small (such that the particles fall within the respirable fraction), the dust will travel deep into the lungs. It is at this point that respirable crystalline silica can cause health effects. Occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica can occur in any workplace situation where airborne dust is generated, which contains a proportion of respirable crystalline silica. Occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica occurs in many industries.
Use the simple flow chart below to carry out an initial assessment to determine whether there is any significant risk of exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The possible presence of fine particles of crystalline silica means that there may be a risk. If there is no foreseeable risk, then you don’t need to take any specific measures. However, you should always obey the general principles of prevention.
Figure: Initial assessment procedure.
Use this simple flow chart to help you to carry out your assessment of personal exposure levels. It’s a good idea at this stage to make detailed notes of the dust control measures that are already in place in your workplace. You will need this information later, in order to assess whether you are complying with the general principles of prevention.
Figure: Assessment of personal exposure levels to respirable crystalline silica.
The only way to quantify the amount of respirable crystalline silica present in the workplace atmosphere is to perform sampling of the air and analysis of the dust collected. Occupational exposure assessment is the process of measuring or estimating the intensity, frequency and duration of human contact with such contaminants.
There are two types of measurements commonly used:
Both types of measurement can be used jointly as they are complementary.
It is up to the experts designated by the employers and the employees’ representatives to opt for the most adequate solutions, while respecting the national and European provisions.
General requirements for dust monitoring (taken from the European Standards EN 689 and EN 1232) are provided in the “Dust Monitoring Protocol”, Annex 2 of the Agreement on Workers Health Protection through the Good Handling and Use of Crystalline Silica and Products Containing it. Producers and end users of products and raw materials containing crystalline silica are encouraged to adopt this protocol.
Advice on organising a dust-monitoring programme can be sought from a competent occupational hygienist.
An occupational exposure limit value represents the maximum time-weighted average concentration of an airborne contaminant to which a worker can be exposed, measured in relation to a specified reference period, normally eight hours.
Currently there are many different types of occupational exposure limit value, defined by individual Member States of the European Union. These limits are all different and, in addition, cannot be compared directly.
In 2018, works involving exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust generated by a work process were included in Annex I of the European Carcinogens and Mutagens at Work Directive (Directive 2017/2398). A European Binding Occupational Exposure Limit Value of 0.1 mg/m³ is set in Annex III for respirable crystalline silica dust.
You need to compare the results of your assessment against the occupational exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica that applies in your country and you need to check that you are complying with the general principles of prevention.
It may be necessary for you to implement additional control measures (following the general principles of prevention), and in the case carcinogenic processes are identified following the CMD obligations, to eliminate, or reduce, exposure to respirable crystalline silica so that you meet the relevant occupational exposure limit.
In any case, you will need to provide training to your workforce on the risks to their health, which may arise from exposure to respirable crystalline silica and how to use the control measures provided.
The following flow chart will guide you through the process.
In the development of this Good Practices guide, the authors respected the prevention strategy, which is described in Council Directive 89/391/EEC and in its transposition in the national laws, and the measures of the CMD 2017/2398 whenever carcinogenic processes are identified.
Nine prevention principles are described and one must consider the following hierarchy in the preventive measures to be taken:
In the context where crystalline silica is handled in the workplace, examples of practical applications of the above principles are:
One of the task guidance sheets in the task manual part of this guide gives detailed guidance on the format and content of training, which should be provided to workers to inform them of the risks to their health that may arise from the handling and use of substances containing crystalline silica.
The following diagram summarises the risk management process, from the perspective of both employer and employee, when applied to control of respirable crystalline silica.
The health and safety systems implemented in the companies must be respected by both employer and employee.