THE BOTTOM LINE ARGUMENT
As in construction and other heavy industries, surface preparation work requires skills honed over years of experience and training, and faces a similar skilled worker gap. With competition for a shrinking pool of skilled workers, retention (or loss) can make or break operation productivity, and ultimately business success.
Going the extra mile to better protect workers from jobsite hazards is morally imperative to be sure, but it's also good business sense.
A skilled blaster does the job more thoroughly, with less wasted time and materials than a green blaster. In addition, the skilled blaster is equipped with a huge toolbox of knowledge and experience to perform blasting tasks in a wide range of conditions, on a wide range of substrates, and knows how to adjust his approach to successfully clean and prepare surfaces when, where and if they require special attention due to factors like heavy contamination, layered coatings, toxic paints and environmental impact.
Airborne dust is one of the most serious hazards associated with dry abrasive blasting (sandblasting) operations. The level of hazard is associated with the concentration of dust and the size of particles, as well as the concentration of dust generated. Larger particles are normally filtered out in the nose and throat, but smaller particles bypass the lung’s filtering system and penetrate deep into the respiratory system, where they cause serious damage.
in addition to dust from abrasives, particles coming from the surfaces themselves contribute to the generation of airborne toxins. Metals like lead, cadmium, beryllium and manganese can be extremely toxic when inhaled.
To mitigate exposure, OSHA encourages companies to change methods: "OSHA recommends that wet methods be used to reduce or eliminate the amount of dust generated during surface preparation."
But dust is not the only serious hazard involved in blasting. It is well known that high friction and spark risks make sandblasting unsuitable in areas where combustibility is a concern.
High-pressure blasting can sever limbs. High speed particles (under higher velocity than a gunshot) can embed in skin, cause severe cuts and burns, and allow toxins to penetrate into the bloodstream.
Sandblasting is very strenuous work, causes operator fatigue (requiring recuperation after a only few hours), vibrations injuries (white finger and Rayoud’s disease) and heat illness due to heavy PPE and physical demands of the task.
When working at heights, workers can be exposed to fall hazards. Hose kickback can cause multiple types of blunt force injuries and knock workers off balance. Surges from drops in pressure and shocks due to static electricity buildup are also sufficient to knock a blaster from the work surface. In addition, clouds of dust and blasting hoods heavily impact visual impairment and can lead to slips, trips and falls.
Noise exposure, causing permanent hearing loss, is also a great concern. Extreme noise levels at 145 dB(A) have been measured at the operator when the grit pot runs out of abrasive. Other areas of risk:
· Air discharge from blast nozzle 112 to 119 dB(A)
· Supply air inside operator's helmet 94 to 102 dB(A)
· Abrasive blasting cabinets 90 to 101 dB(A)
LOWERING RISKS - NEW TREND IN EQUIPMENT
Blasting is a hazardous operation, which is why there are so many safeguards in place. Money only goes so far to attract and retain skilled workers. Managers and CEOs don’t want to watch their employees suffer from preventable health consequences; sacrificing worker health negatively impacts their bottom line, reputation and integrity.
Understanding that, it’s easy to see why so many operations have already switched from high-pressure blasting methods to low-pressure, low wet abrasive vapor blasting (vapor blast).
Among the options available is CleanerBlast, maker of state-of-the-art wet abrasive blast machines. Direct collaboration with customers in the field is CleanerBlast’s model for continuous equipment innovation. Built with the user perspective in mind, CleanerBlast equipment provides solid performance, reduced maintenance and higher durability. Each unit is backed by decades of designing, testing and engineering to improve configurations and introduce meaningful design changes for a better and more confident user experience when making the switch to vapor blasting.