Dangers of silica dust

Construction works produce silica dust, which is dangerous because it can lead to serious diseases.

What is silica?

Silica is a natural substance that can be found in materials on construction sites, including bricks, concrete, rocks, stone, clay, and sand. When a construction worker cuts, grinds, drills or otherwise disturbs these materials, they generate dust-containing silica. In case the silica particles in the dust are tiny enough, commonly known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS), the worker at will inhale them deep into the lungs to cause damage. The dust that the workers can breathe in isn’t visible to the naked eye.

Tasks

The construction workers will inhale silica dust if they are:

  •  Sawing, sanding, hammering, drilling, grinding and chipping concrete or masonry -bricks, stone, and fiber cement products;
  • Chipping, drilling rock and hammering as well as crushing, loading, hauling and dumping of rock.
  • Demolishing concrete and masonry structures;
  • Abrasive blasting of concrete and other materials;

Harm

Lung disease can happen from breathing in silica dust.

Silicosis: Inhaling silica dust can scar lung tissue, a condition commonly referred to as silicosis, which causes a loss of lung function, usually characterised by breathlessness. Unfortunately, the effects of silicosis are permanent and may continue to develop even after exposure has stopped. Silicosis could trigger tuberculosis and kidney disease. Chronic lung condition or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or short (COPD) can end up with forming breathing difficulties.

Lung cancer: A longer exposure to high levels of silica dust could cause lung cancer.
Important note: Long-term exposure to small or moderate levels of silica dust but also a short-term exposure to high levels of silica dust could cause lung disease. Smoking exacerbates the problem.

Employers’ responsibilities

Employers should ensure employees are safe at work by eliminating, isolating or minimising exposure to silica dust. They should identify tasks creating silica dust and remove the dust or control any worker exposure.
They should provide dust control methods – respiratory protection; air monitoring, health monitoring, warning signs, protective clothing and training.

Effective Dust control methods

Prevent silica exposure by not allowing silica dust out of the air.
Water: Wet working and water methods will cut down silica dust in the air. Avail water hoses to wet dust created before it becomes airborne. Use water hoses instead of compressed air. Clean equipment and work areas to avoid workers dust exposure.
Sweeping: Clean work space using vacuums with high-efficiency particulate air filters.
Equipment: Purchase construction equipment and tools with dust collection systems and dust control features e.g. with water attachments or perhaps vacuum attachments to control dust at the source. Like, saws used on concrete providing water to the blade; machinery such as excavators and bulldozers with a dust collection system and an air-conditioned cab with a filtered air supply.
Blasting: Abrasives used during abrasive blasting shouldn’t contain silica. It might be for the best to utilize metallic shot, grit or slag products when it comes to blasting, instead of sand. Also, use containment methods such as cabinets, blast-cleaning machines, and local exhaust ventilation when abrasive blasting.

Protective methods

Breathing (Respiratory) protection – Use respirators alongside with other dust control methods to stop exposure to silica dust. Make sure to give your staff with certified respirators and ensure they use them properly.
Note: Facial hair – beard, stubble growth, mustache or sideburns – or glasses might affect the respirator forming a tight seal around the face. Men should clean-shave before wearing respirators, or they wear a full-face powered respirator.

Air monitoring – Conduct air monitoring to measure the amount of silica dust created at the worksite and the maximum level of worker exposure.

Health monitoring – Conduct health surveillance for your workers with the risk of exposure to silica dust.

Protective clothing – Ensure that dusty clothes do not contaminate cars, homes and other areas outside of the worksite by providing the workers with disposable or washable clothes to change into at the worksite.

Warning signs – Post warning signs to mark the boundaries of work areas creating silica dust.

Training – Provide your workers with adequate training on silica dust.

Employees’ protecting themselves – Employees must take all practicable steps to keep themselves, and other people around them safe by identifying tasks that generate silica dust and take dust control initiatives.

We at Reilly Roofing and Gutters, a local Fort Wort roofers, always apply the newest safety regulations and look after our health and coworkers. Although in roofing we often don’t deal with such materials it is important to know all the possible harms and problems that might occur.

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