05 April 2023

According to the Health and Safety Executive Silica is the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos. Exposure to silica dust can cause lung cancer, it is the second highest cause of occupational cancer deaths, after asbestos. Over 500 construction workers a year are believed to die from exposure to silica dust.

What is silica dust?

Silica dust is a very fine dust that can be present in many construction materials such as bricks, tiles, concrete and mortar. Like asbestos it is a naturally occurring substance in rocks and minerals (in this form it is known as Crystalline Silica). Exposure to the dust occurs when the materials are disturbed such as by drilling, cutting or sanding.

Why is exposure to silica dust dangerous?

As silica dust particles are so fine that they more than 100 times smaller than beach sand. They can travel deep into the lungs when inhaled and because they are so fine the body’s natural defences can’t stop them.

Inhalation of only a very small amount of Silica Dust can cause damage. [1]

What illnesses can be caused by exposure to silica dust?

The most common illnesses caused by exposure to Silica Dust are, lung cancer, silicosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Although these illnesses may develop over many years a very high level of exposure to silica dust can increase the risk of developing disease.

What steps are employers required to put in place to prevent exposure to silica dust?

Employers are required to assess the likely levels of exposure to dangerous dusts within the workplace and the type of materials used. Once they have identified this and there is a risk of exposure they are required to control those risks by putting measures in place that either stop or reduce the amount of dust created. If it is not possible to stop creation of the dust completely then the employer must provide their employees with adequate personal protective equipment and must consider other controls in order to reduce exposure to the dust, such as reducing the number of workers in the area where the dust is created and installing mechanical ventilation.

Can I make a claim for occupational illness caused by exposure to silica dust?

If you have been negligently exposed to silica dust and this has resulted in you suffering an illness you may be able to make a claim against an employer or former employer for compensation. Even some claims for companies that are no longer trading can be successful.

Whether a claim will be successful will depend on the specific facts relating to your exposure but there have been a number of successful claims in cases where workers were negligently exposed to silica dust.

How long do I have to make a claim?

It can often take years for illnesses related to silica dust exposure to develop. The general rule in cases of this type is that you have three years from the date that you knew or ought to have known that you had a significant injury or illness which was caused or contributed to by your employer or former employer.

It may also be possible for the Executors of an Estate or for dependants of someone who has passed away to make a claim.

What should I do if I would like to consider a claim?

For more information and advice contact Michelle Green on 0800 652 8411 or email The cost of our initial discussion will be free of charge and we can discuss with you whether your claim would be eligible for a no-win no-fee funding arrangement as well as other funding options.

[1] Source: Health and Safety Executive Website