Silica dust is created when cutting, grinding, drilling or polishing, natural substances such as rocks and sand and is also a major constituent in bricks, tiles, concrete and materials.
Inhaling large amounts of silica dust over a long period can cause the serious respiratory disease silicosis and can also lead to other potentially fatal illnesses including lung cancer, tuberculosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The symptoms of silicosis take many years to develop, making a register important to identify when and where workers were exposed.
It is the employers’ responsibility to prevent workers from being exposed to silica dust; this should be by removing the risk, using dust suppression measures or by issuing the appropriate personal protective equipment such as properly fitting masks in order to prevent exposure.
Unite national health and safety advisor Bud Hudspith said: “The Unite silica register is an important step to help members provide evidence for possible future claims.
“Silica exposure can have long-term serious health consequences for workers, but simple measures can prevent the health of workers being damaged.
“Unfortunately many employers remain willing to play fast and loose with the health of their workers.
“Unite’s primary aim is to ensure employers prevent silicosis and lung cancer through the removal or strict control of silica dust.”