Silica Dust, OSHA Exposure Limits,
Health Risks and Why You Should Care.
A source of information on silica dust, exposure risks, OSHA regulations and compliance and measures to reduce exposure threats, in particular during abrasive blasting applications.
Knowledge is power and, in this case, safety.
The topic of Cyrstalline silica dust and risks related to exposure has been front and center in the industrial sector for some time, especially since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enacted a new regulation which governs worker Permissible Exposure Level (PEL). Understanding exactly what Crystalline silica dust is, where it can be found, the major health risks it presents, and the OSHA standard is extremely important for both the worker and the employer.
What is silica dust?
Silica dust is created when materials containing the mineral silica, such as concrete, granite, rock, soil and sand, are manipulated by blasting, grinding, cutting, drilling or otherwise disturbing. The dust can contain crystalline silica particles that are too small to be seen with the human eye. When these airborne particles are inhaled, even in trace amounts, the worker is at risk of developing silicosis, lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Exposure to higher amounts of silica dust and/or repeated exposure greatly increase the chances of developing serious lung disease. (click here to learn more about the health risks) (also here)
Silica is a mineral sometimes referred to as quartz.
Silica is found in many common materials found on construction and oil & gas job sites.
The dust created by disturbing these materials can contain crystalline silica particles.
When inhaled, silica dust is hazardous and causes lung disease and lung cancer.
Even exposure to very small amounts of airborne silica particles is a major health risk.
Helpful resources to further educate yourself...
What is the OSHA standard?
Understanding that exposure to even small amounts of airborne silica particles can cause major health issues including cancer, on June 23, 2016, OSHA set a new standard for worker exposure. The most significant change is the revised permissible exposure limit (PEL). The prior PELs for silica were 100 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air (µg/m3) for general industry and 250 µg/m3 for construction and shipyards. OSHA set a new silica PEL at 50 µg/m3 (8-hr time-weighted average [TWA]) for all industries.
OSHA’s new Final Rule for Crystalline Silica underscores the theme of containment and control. The rule increases protections for employees exposed to silica in the workplace and imposes new and substantial obligations on employers - such as a requirement that medical surveillance be made available to employees required to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year, or who are exposed to silica above the PEL for 30 or more days per year.
Learn more here...
Understanding & Implementing the New Construction Standard (webinar),The Center for Construction Research and Training
ASTM International, ANSI, NIOSH, ACGIH, Work Safely with Silica
Abrasive Blasting and Silica Dust Exposure
Crystalline silica is a hazard before, during and after blasting activities. Abrasive blasters, pot tenders, cleanup crews and adjacent workers can be affected. Silica dust is created at any point where abrasives are transferred to trucks or machines, whether by hand or shovel. Dry blasting generates huge clouds of silica containing dust.
How do you reduce the risk?
One obvious means to do so would be to switch to wet abrasive vapor blast methods. Vapor blasting consumes only a fraction of the grit used in dry abrasive blasting. Lower grit media consumption means lower total dust and waste generation, thus ensuring significantly reduced airborne concentrations and assured compliance.
The new PEL for respirable crystalline silica is 50% lower for general industry and maritime and 80% lower for the construction industry than previous PEL. Compared to dry abrasive blasting, vapor blasting produces significantly less airborne dust, therefore, greatly reducing exposure risks.
CleanerBlast™ provides an environmentally friendly and safer media blast alternative to dry abrasive blasting.
92% Less Dust
80% Less Media Consumption
Greatly Reduces Waste Disposal
Much Safer to Operate
Cleaner Surface Results