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The Official Publication
of the Mason Contractors
Association of America
The Big Deal About Silica Dust Collection
Silica is the second-most common compound on earth. It is found in sand, minerals, granite, sandstone, flint and slate. It also can be in soil, mortar, plaster and shingles. The cutting, breaking, crushing, drilling, grinding or abrasive blasting of these materials may produce fine silica dust.
Workers in these construction environments are at high risk of developing silicosis, a serious lung disease caused by the accumulation of silica dust in the lungs. Even today, many workers are not aware that common building products such as clay bricks, concrete, tiles and cement products contain silica. When these building products are cut, drilled or ground using diamond blades or cup wheels, they create fine particles of silica in the air. When small silica dust particles are inhaled, they can embed themselves deeply in the lungs, where oxygen and carbon dioxide gases are exchanged. There, the lungs cannot clear out the dust by mucous or coughing. The silica dust causes the formation of scar tissue, thus reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. Many workers with silicosis develop other health problems such as tuberculosis and lung cancer. There is no cure for silicosis. Silicosis is the most common occupational lung disease worldwide.
Controlling silica dust at work
The only effective protection against silicosis is the prevention of silica dust in the air. Employers must take measures to ensure that workers are not exposed to silica dust. There a number of simple control measures that can be taken to effectively reduce the amount of airborne silica.
Wear disposable or washable work clothes, and shower if facilities are available. Vacuum dust off your clothes or change into clean clothing before leaving the worksite. Do not take contaminated clothes home.
Do not eat, drink or smoke in areas where crystalline silica dust is present.
Posters and signs warning of the presence of silica dust should always be prominently displayed at any work site. Quarterly “Tail Gate Talks” should be conducted on the dangers of silica exposure so that all workers have a complete understanding of how to prevent increased exposure.
The use of Respiratory Protective Equipment should be considered as a last resort when all other preventative solutions have been put in place and silica dust exposure continues to be an issue. Respiratory Protective Equipment can vary, so make sure that the proper equipment is being used and fitted correctly to each worker. Workers must be trained in the proper way to use a respirator and must understand the health reasons for always wearing it. Wear only a N95 NIOSH certified respirator, if respirator protection is required. It is mandatory to have a written respiratory program in place if any kind of protective equipment is being used.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 December 2009 05:48|