Vancouver lawyer Nancy Harwood is heading up a project to develop an online tool that can be used for testing silica and installing preventive measures.
Silica is the dust which is created when rocks, cement, concrete or asphalt are ground, drilled, cut or broken. When breathed into lungs, it can cause lung hardening through scar tissue encapsulating the particles or lead to lung cancer. The BC Construction Safety Alliance, which is financing the tool, estimates there are more than 380,000 employees, mainly construction workers, exposed to silica every year.
The construction industry found the B.C. government's new standards for employees working around silica were difficult to implement and some kind of tool or guide was needed to measure dust exposure levels and make preventive recommendations.
The project involves gathering exposure levels from different tasks, which is being done by Hugh Davies, a tenured associate professor of occupational and environmental health at the University of B.C.’s School of Population and Public Health and also ensuring when preventive measures are set out they meet the requirements of WorkSafeBC, another partner in the tool’s development.
Once the data has been gathered, it will be input into a mobile application that contractors on site anywhere in B.C. can access. They will determine the task from drop-down menus and get an average exposure level and then preventive measures that should be taken for employees performing the task. The tool is expected to be available some time in 2016.
This aricle originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Canadian Lawyer, a sister publication of COS.