Dust in various forms has for a long time been recognised to cause health problems in workspaces. In particular, respirable crystalline silica (RCS) can be generated in numerous typical activities in construction work, as silica is a constituent of many construction materials like e.g. natural stone, bricks, tiles, concrete and mortar. It is generated from these materials during many common construction tasks. These include cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing. The RCS can enter the lung if inhaled. This can cause cancer and other severe lung diseases like Silicosis. These effects are recognised worldwide and efforts have been taken to protect workers, in particular construction workers from the effects of RCS.

In the European Union (EU) the revision of Directive 2004/37/EC by Directive (EU) 2019/130 a new occupational exposure limit (OEL) of 0.1 mg/m³ was introduced for the RCS. This OEL differs significantly in some cases from national limit values in European countries. The European Social Partners organisations for the construction sector see this limit as a challenge. To support the implementation of the OEL across the EU and to support the market actors and in particular the workers, a project was set up to create the basis for safe work on construction sites without dust. The research activities within the project have the following tasks:

1. Bring together stakeholders for better prevention against RCS exposure in construction works;

2. Mapping of the various types of construction works and evaluation of their level of dust (inhalable, respirable und RCS) exposure;

3. Evaluation of the level of protection needed for the different tasks of construction works and the possibility of keeping the exposure below the limit value (traffic light system);

4. Describe technical and organisational measures to reach the best achievable level of protection

5. Provide guidance on the needed technical innovations for those activities for which the new limit value is more complicated or impossible to achieve


Olaf Wirth

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