Crystalline Silica: Preparing for New Regulations
Photo Courtesy of NBC News
This summer will mark the beginning of change from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) as companies involved in the construction industry will be required to have a vacuum the helps remove Silica from the air where a worker maybe cutting stone or tile. Many tool vendors are also preparing for the switch as Toolbarn will highlight the dangers of silica and why it’s important to get compliant for 2017.
Courtesy of Atlantic Environmental Inc.
Crystalline silica is a common, but important industrial material found in the earth. Quartz, which is the most common form of silica, is a major component in sand, stone rock, brick, concrete and mortar. By itself, it mostly isn’t a problem. However, it becomes hazardous when very small particles are inhaled. These particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause all sorts of problems for the average person.
Without proper protection equipment, crystalline silica has been linked to fatal lung diseases, including silicosis and lung cancer and has even been linked to kidney disease as well. Most crystalline silica occurs when a worker is using equipment the produces large amounts of sand such as foundries, pottery and concrete production industries.
According to OSHA, more than 2.3 million workers in the US are potentially exposed to dust that contains crystalline silica. Sadly, nearly 90% of those those affected are employed in the construction industry.
Recognizing the Effects and Silicosis Prevention
In an attempt to combat the growing silica problem, OSHA has established a Permissible Exposure Limit (to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air) in which a worker may be exposed during an 8-hour shift. Those who have had a large amount of exposure to crystalline silica may be at risk of silicosis. Silicosis is a disease of the lungs that due to breathing dust that contains silica particles. This dust causes fibrosis and scar tissue. It reduces the lung’s ability to work breath oxygen. There is no cure.
Since prevention is the only way to make sure you don’t get silicosis, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your workers. Courtesy of OSHA.
- Employers are required to provide and assure the use of appropriate controls for crystalline silica-containing dust. Be sure to use all available engineering controls such as blasting cabinets, water sprays, and local exhaust ventilation.
- Smoking adds to the damage, you should stop that to.
- Know that your job may produce exposure to crystalline silica.
- Participate in any air monitoring or training programs offered by the employer.
- Use type CE positive pressure abrasive blasting respirators for sandblasting.
- If a respirator is required, wear a respirator approved for protection against crystalline silica-containing dust. Do not alter the respirator in any way. NOTE: Workers who use tight-fitting respirators cannot have beards/mustaches. It interferes with the respirator seal to the face.
- If possible, change into disposable or washable work clothes at the worksite. Shower and change into clean clothing before leaving.
- Wash hands and face before eating, drinking, smoking, or applying cosmetics outside of the exposure area.
Tool Manufacturers Getting Prepared
Courtesy of Makita
Many tool vendors are preparing for the change and will be offering products that are OSHA certified in time for the late June deadline. Whether that’s using a vacuum with a HEPA filter or using other equipment to cut down on crystalline silica in the air. All the major vendors are offering vacuum, especially Makita.
Two Makita products that will be ready to go for the June deadline include the 18V LXT Li-Ion Cordless ½ Gallon HEPA filter Backpack Dry Vacuum (XCV05Z). The vacuum can run for 90 minutes using two 18V LXT 5.0Ah batteries. It also has a powerful motor that creates lots of suction and water lift as well.
Crystalline silica is here to stay and that means having a way to protect you and your workers from the microscopic organisms. Whether that’s getting a filtration mask, a high powered vacuum or other devices…there are a number of products to keep you safe.