Silt and Silica Dust | Hasmate Health and Safety
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Silt and Silica Dust

Silt and Silica Dust

After reading a WorkSafe article about silica dust,  I feel so lucky and privileged.


As a young man, I served my apprenticeship as a carpenter, and in those days, PPE was something that sounded like a disease that one would not like to catch. I still remember cutting sheets of fibrolite that contained cement and asbestos with a skill saw, and getting the dust in my eyes, mouth, and up my nose – we never really thought much about it.

So, why do I feel lucky?

Now, being 70+ years of age, I’m still here to enjoy the day.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for many New Zealand workers and their families who have been exposed to the horrible silent death that is asbestosis, emphysema, and now silica dust poisoning.

Silt and Silica Dust – as a result of Cyclone Gabrielle

From the aftermath of the devastating impact of Cyclone Gabrielle here in Hawke’s Bay, it has now been identified that there is now a real potential health issue. This has resulted from the millions of tonnes of silt containing fine silica dust that was washed down the valleys and onto productive agriculture, viticulture, and farmland.

To put in perspective:

  • a human hair is approximately 100 microns thick;
  • the microns of silica dust can be as small as 10 – 50 microns in size.

When the silt dries out, it becomes a dust bowl, with tons of dust becoming airborne. When breathed in, it travels to the lungs, and then to the alveoli or the finer structures of the lungs, and there it stays.

As a result of the carnage, many landowners, their family, friends, contractors and their staff moved and transported mountains of the silt to other locations for storage, and many more are still working on this task.

Here is the WorkSafe article about how to protect yourself while cleaning up silt – click to read article.  And another on the importance of PPE – click here.

Please contact us if you wish to discuss this further.