Health protocols: Quarry workers demand safety gear for silica

Call for action against factory owners involved in business

APP October 13, 2016
Call for action against factory owners involved in business. PHOTO: FILE

SARGODHA: Workers of the stone-crushing industry in Sargodha have voiced concerns over the lack of safety measures in factories, claiming the labourers are compelled to work under dangerous conditions without proper safety against hazardous emission of silica dust.

A number of labourers working in the stone-crushing plants situated in Chak 116, 119, 123, 126 and 128 expressed reservations over the non-provision of safety gear by the industry owners.

They demanded of the authorities to implement safety standards and urged the government to keep a check on the stone-crushing industry owners.

Earlier in July 2014, more than a dozen labourers had died after being afflicted with ailments caused by silica dust emissions in Gujranwala. People from different organisations had staged a massive protest demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club.

Representatives of Punjab Lok Sangat, Muttahaida Labour Federation, Awami Workers Union, Mazdoor Kisan Party and Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz participated in the protest. They had demanded action against all the persons responsible due to which over a dozens stone-crushing workers had lost their lives.

The protesters demanded of the Punjab and federal governments to frame rules and regulations for the workers involving stone-crushing and the hazardous emission of silica dust.

Then Supreme Court chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani also took suo motu notice of the deaths of labourers in Gujranwala.

More than 100 laourers had died from silicosis in Dera Ghazi Khan and other regions of Punjab in the last few years. Apparently all of them were working in stone-crushing factories.

Silica is a natural mineral found in varying amounts in most rocks, sand and clay. Sandstone contains more than 70% silica whereas granite might contain up to 30%. Silica is also a major constituent of construction materials such as bricks, tiles, concrete and mortar.

Many common construction tasks like cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing produce fine dust that is known as respirable crystalline silica or commonly called silica dust. Silica is the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos. Heavy and prolonged exposure to silica dust can cause lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2016.


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