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What is Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS)?

Silica is a natural substance found in rocks, stone, sands and clays. These materials can create a dust when cut, sanded or carved and these fine dust particles can be breathed deeply into your lungs and cause harm to your health. The fine dust particles are called Respirable Crystalline Silica.                                                                                                                               

Exposure to RCS over a long period can cause fibrosis (hardening or scarring) of the lung tissue with a consequent loss of lung function.  This lung disease is called Silicosis. Sufferers are likely to have severe shortness of breath and may find it difficult to walk even short distances or up stair cases due to the breathlessness.  The effect continues to develop after exposure has stopped and is irreversible.  

Occupational risks

Occupations with exposure to RCS include: quarrying, slate works, foundries, potteries, stonemasonry, construction (when cutting or breaking stone, concrete or brick), and industries using silica flour to manufacture goods.

Respirable crystalline silica particles are produced during many work tasks, including sandblasting, mining, rock drilling, quarrying, brick cutting, glass manufacturing, tunnelling, foundry work, stone working, ceramic manufacturing and construction activities.

Different types of stone contain different amounts of silica e.g.:

sandstone, gritstone, quartzite

more than 70%


up to 40%

concrete, mortar

25% to 70%


up to 30%


40% to 60%


up to 30%

china stone

up to 50%






Unity has developed a comprehensive service to provide support and health assessments for those businesses with employees who work with Silica.

This service is in line with the HSE guidance on the health surveillance for those exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) – ‘Guidance for occupational health professionals 2015’


Unity has rolled this out successfully to the first client to use this service and has just completed a health surveillance programme for 42 employees.  The service is provided through completion of a specialist health declaration questionnaire, lung function screening, chest x-ray and review with an Occupational Health Physician.  We have designed this service in the most time efficient manner to reduce lost time from work and to ensure a seamless process.

If you would like to discuss this service further please call us on the number below.


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