A UK parliamentary inquiry has been launched to better assess the impact silicosis is having on the health and wellbeing of construction workers, following a number of deaths.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (AAPG) on Respiratory Health has joined forces with not-for-profit organisation B&CE to more accurately understand why construction workers are continuing to die from silicosis caused by silica (respirable crystalline silica).
According to research undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the past ten years have seen between ten and 20 annual deaths due to lung disease. In 2014 HSE reported that silicosis was the second biggest health risk to construction workers after asbestos.
Construction workers often experience frequent and sustained exposure to silica because it is found in stone, bricks and concrete. Each time workers engage in the cutting or breaking of these materials, they are exposed to tiny particles that settle in the lungs and can cause chronic breathing difficulties.
Silicosis is a preventable condition if the correct precautions are taken, but currently it is greatly impacting quality of life and leading to avoidable deaths.
The AAPG are now seeking expert clinicians, campaigners, industry bodies, academics and government officials to provide evidence that will assist ministers in the inquiry. Aside from generally developing a greater understanding of silicosis, the goal of the inquiry is to determine the financial burden the disease is placing on the NHS and the challenges it presents to workplace productivity.
Director of Policy at B&CE Gregg McClymont said that despite silicosis being such a serious concern for the construction industry, it still going largely undetected. He encouraged anyone interested in respiratory health to contribute to the inquiry.
“We’re calling on experts to submit evidence over the summer which we’ll use as the basis for recommendations to the government.”
Calls for evidence opened on 9 July and will close on 31 August.