Working with RCS (Silica Dust)?

Legal requirements in the UK – the government run Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have made dust a primary focus, recently a fine of £20,000 was issued where inefficient, the wrong or no dust extraction was being used, obviously you’re leaving yourself liable for potential claims from those affected by this as well.

Don’t just use a commercial vacuum cleaner!

Before we get into this let’s firstly clear one thing up, 99% of the hacks on Youtube are not sufficient, neither is our friend Henry the Hoover or indeed any of his friends.  Don’t get us wrong, we like Henry and he’s great at the job he’s designed to do but unfortunately he would actually spread the silica dust around rather than collecting it.  If you are being asked to work with a standard hoover of any type whilst working with Silica Dust then you should definitely be reading on…

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If you are working with materials that create RCS (Silica Dust) then you will have to comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).  To comply with this regulation there are three key things you need to do:


Assess The Risks

Control the Risks

Assess the Controls

1.  Asessing the risks

Assess the risks linked to the work and materials, the HSE have provided information on how to assess risks here.

2.  Control the risks

Before work starts, look at ways of stopping or reducing the amount of dust you might make. Use different materials, less powerful tools or other work methods.

For example you could use:

  • the right size of building materials so less cutting or preparation is needed;
  • silica-free abrasives to reduce the risks when blasting;
  • a less powerful tool – eg a block splitter instead of a cut-off saw;
  • a different method of work altogether – eg a direct fastening system.

Controling the dust

Even if you stop some dust this way, you may do other work that could still produce high dust levels. In these cases the most important action is to stop the dust getting into the air. There are two main ways of doing this:

Water – water damps down dust clouds. However, it needs to be used correctly. This means enough water supplied at the right levels for the whole time that the work is being done. Just wetting the material beforehand does not work.

On-tool extraction – removes dust as it is being produced. It is a type of local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system that fits directly onto the tool. This ‘system’ consists of several individual parts – the tool, capturing hood, extraction unit and tubing.  Don’t just use a general commercial vacuum.

Review (the controls)

You may already have the right controls in place, but are they all working properly? Check the controls work by:

  • having procedures to ensure that work is done in the right way;
  • checking controls are effective. Does the work still seem dusty? You might need to carry out dust exposure monitoring;
  • involving workers. They can help identify problems and find solutions;
  • maintaining equipment:
    • follow instructions in maintenance manuals;
    • regularly look for signs of damage. Make repairs;
    • replace disposable masks in line with manufacturer’s recommendations;
    • properly clean, store, and maintain nondisposable RPE. Change RPE filters as recommended by the supplier;
    • carry out a thorough examination and test of any on-tool extraction system at least every 14 months.
  • supervising workers. Make sure they:
    • use the controls provided;
    • follow the correct work method;
    • attend any health surveillance where it is needed.

You may have to put a health surveillance programme in place. You may need advice for this from an occupational health professional.



Bosch GAS 18V-10 L

Bosch GAS 18V-10 L

Bosch GDE 68

Bosch GDE 68

Maxvac DV-20-MB M Class

Much of the information in this article has come from the HSE, the rest from various sources on the internet.  This information is provided purely for awareness and advice.  A thorough risk assesment should be completed for any task that may potentially create silica dust.

Contact one of our specialist team

Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust

Read more abour Silica Dust (RCS)

Talk to one of our experts today on 02392 551 931

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