The Silica Control Tool™ developed by the BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA) has been helping construction employers to conduct risk assessments and implement effective controls and safe work practices since it was launched in 2017. A recently-published peer-reviewed research paper not only highlights the rigorous science behind the tool’s development — it may also demonstrate a new way for industry members to collaborate on exposure control by combining their exposure data.
Hugh Davies, associate professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia and Melanie Gorman Ng, senior research scientist at BCCSA, submitted Development of a Web-Based Tool for Risk Assessment and Exposure Control Planning of Silica-Producing Tasks in the Construction Sector to Occupational Health and Safety, a special section of the journal Frontiers in Public Health. Both authors were part of the development team for the tool.
“We feel that the publication of the article represents a great opportunity to share the story of the process of the development of the Silica Control Tool™ with a broader audience, including why we developed it and how it works,” says Gorman Ng. “But the paper also answers questions about why people should trust the data and how they know the tool’s estimates are accurate. That makes it an excellent read not only for researchers, but for people using the tool here in BC.”
The paper also describes the ongoing process of development for the tool as new information strengthens its ability to provide accurate and actionable information.
For Ammar Kavazovic, program manager at BCCSA, the publication of the paper represents a success story for both the paper’s authors and for the Alliance.
“It’s been more than six years since the concept behind the Silica Control Tool™ was announced,” he says. “To now see it as the subject of an academic paper in a peer-reviewed journal is really a testament to the tremendous work done by all those involved in its development, from the BCCSA team to UBC and industry stakeholders and experts who helped us along the way. The publication of the paper also validates the strong research and objective, data-driven foundation on which the tool was built.”
But by defining the progress made in controlling exposure to workplace silica, the paper also helps to define the challenges that the construction industry is still working to overcome regarding exposure to silica and other contaminants that may be found on construction worksites.
“We’re fortunate to have Melanie on staff so that she can continue to monitor the effectiveness of the tool, identify remaining challenges faced by users and fine-tune calculations for exposure estimates,” Kavazovic says. “She’s always looking for ways to improve the tool and being part of the Alliance, she can make those adjustments in real time.”
For Davies, the publication of the paper is important, not only because it allows other jurisdictions to benefit from the research, but also because it shows researchers a way forward to apply the same approach to other hazards in various industries.
“Government entities used to be responsible for collecting and archiving exposure data, so that it could be studied,” he says. “We miss having that exposure data. But what this tool does is show you that when industry collects data and shares it with scientists and other employers we all benefit. There’s great synergy when everyone pools a little bit of data and we wind up with a very significant pool of data that tells a detailed story. It represents a new way forward for exposure control strategies.”
This content is an Industry Special by BCCSA in collaboration with ConstructConnect™ Media. To learn more about BCCSA, visit www.bccsa.ca.