Q&A Series #03: Interview with Steve Holland

GRT Q&A Series with Steve holland from Trolex on Silica dust and real-time silica dust monitoring 

About the guest

Steve Holland is the Managing Director of Trolex. Trolex specialises in the design, manufacture, supply and support of state-of-the-art particulate monitoring, wireless, and fixed multi-gas detection systems.

Having built a successful air conditioning and heating business, moved from HR Manager to Finance and then onto a group commercial role, Steve took up a fresh challenge as the Managing Director of Trolex.

The topic of discussion: Silica dust and real-time silica dust monitoring 

Respirable crystalline silica dust is one of the most dangerous dust types that affects millions of people globally. Exposure to silica dust happens both occupationally and non-occupationally and given the carcinogenic nature of silica dust, the implications are often fatal. Real-time silica dust monitoring has the following advantages:

  • Cost efficiency.
  • Making good simple decisions.
  • Availability of clear simple data.
  • Save more lives and maximising safety. 
  • Enables identification of zones of concern. 
  • Accountability with historical data records. 
  • Compliance with workplace exposure standards.
  • Ability to utilize dust control methods at the right place and time.

In this Q&A session, we learn more about silica dust and real-time silica dust monitoring from Steve Holland, Managing Director of Trolex in the United Kingdom (UK). 

Q1: Can you tell us more about Trolex and its contributions to silica dust monitoring innovations? 

I can say on behalf of everyone here this is a very exciting time for Trolex as we see the culmination of years of hard work come to a product for the market, Silica and the extreme hazards from exposure haven’t been dealt with correctly for a long time as shown by the outrageous death toll every year and we have part of the answer.

At Trolex we really wanted to do something that would make a difference. Of course, Real-Time Silica Monitoring has been the “holy grail” of detection companies for many years with no one managing to achieve it or even get close. Honestly, that just made it more of an exciting challenge for us so we worked day and night to crack the puzzle of defining crystalline particles accurately in real-time. 

The best bit is, all that hard work has paid off and we will proudly launch the world’s first-ever real-time silica monitor in 2022.

Q2: What is the role of data in real-time silica dust monitoring? 

Simply put it’s proven in many other areas, data allows you to make educated decisions to effect change and save lives.

Consider this, it may be that only a part of a process or event causes dangerous levels ? or it may be that there are continuous levels of hazardous particulate constantly, at the moment, how would you know?  Knowing the difference entirely affects the controls and safety measures you put in place and how often you review them.

What we believe is going to be even more valuable is the data that demonstrates the length of time the hazard remains present in environmental conditions and how far that hazard is present from the original source. XRD, gravimetric or other sampling systems cannot give you an accurate picture of that making the right controls difficult to define.  

Q3: With increasing casualties of silica dust exposure, what are your insights on the current respiratory health and safety for the mining workforce? 

 You can clearly see awareness starting to increase which is fantastic, the problem is really around time frames, unfortunately, many people will die for many years to come because of what they have been exposed to in the past. In our opinion, the only way to stop this affecting generations of people to come is to implement change right now. 

Of course, we have the controls available but until now we didn’t have the visibility. With XD One and Air XS (the silica Monitor due in 2022) there are no excuses for ignorance anymore, we CAN save people’s lives by understanding the problem.

Q4: Is enough being done to deal with silica dust at its source and what can be done differently? 

 I think once we start to see the data come back from different environments globally we will see that the precautions taken are really not adequate. Of course, any Safety advisor knows you should always remedy the problem at the source where possible, I suspect in the majority of cases this is overlooked as expensive or time-consuming, which really isn’t the case.  Clever suppression, Mechanical controls and fantastic PPE is available and it’s a case of using the right option for the right environment.

Q5: How do we bridge the gap between ‘lagging’ legislation and doing the right thing to save lives? 

This is such a hard question to answer as its natural to default to the legislation for guidance, I’d urge people to look at the problem in comparison to other work-related illnesses to see the legislation isn’t yet enough.  The great news is that many of the world’s authorities on the subject are now making a case for change and agreeing the legislation should be the bare minimum in terms of action in the meantime.

Our strategy has been to try to reduce the complexity and cost of instruments, whilst we can always improve on these factors, this is our way of giving power to those who care they can now gain the data and make informed decisions and maybe save someone’s life.

Q6: What are some of the key challenges faced by Trolex currently? (In spreading awareness and expanding Trolex in the market)

The biggest challenge for any business is implementing change, of course our products are all about changing the way people do things, mostly the resistance is fear of the unknown which isn’t a symptom-specific to safety, technology or silica.  All we ask is that people take the time to listen with an open mind, those who actually want to save lives, save money and make a change tend to quickly embrace the technology. Of course, we accept there’s no “one size fits all” so providing we prompt a chain of thought which makes an impact we are confident we are doing the right thing by our ethos and brand, if people respect that we trust the business will come later.

Q7: Moving forward, how important are collaborations in tackling silica dust at its source? 

 I can’t say this enough. Trolex is only part of the puzzle in this global problem, collaboration between solution providers, regulators, end-users, corporate stakeholders and safety professionals are critical in making an impact, after all the information is only as good as the way it’s used.

If together we could save 10% of people being exposed to deadly levels globally next year that would be estimated at around 50,000 people, I think we can easily make a much bigger impact than that by working together and being open-minded about the solutions.

If ever there was a time for unity especially around a preventable respiratory disease, surely the last 2 years has taught us that time is right now. If anyone out there is pleading the same message I’d urge them to get in touch, working together we can make a change.

To learn more about real-time silica dust monitoring, visit – https://trolex.com/

Keith Nare

Technical Head of Communications for GRT, Keith leads GRT's content strategy across various platforms, whilst coordinating internally to build the voice and opinions of the GRT team. Keith is a product of Nelson Mandela University and his PhD work focuses on Polymer and Physical Chemistry. He was a Research Associate at SANRAL in South Africa and later spent time as a Visiting Research Associate to NTEC at the University of Nottingham in the UK. He is a former Director of Communications for CALROBO in the USA.

Keith is passionate and enthusiastic about health and safety, sustainability, networking and finding synergy through conversations.