Crystalline Silica Dust: The Threat & Prevention
Dec 08, 2020
For starters, it is important to note that crystalline silica is a mineral found in earth produced materials. These earth materials include, but are not limited to, sand, stone, concrete, and mortar due to the number of silica minerals found within them. Non-earth materials are forged using the crystalline silica mineral. These products include pottery, ceramics, artificial stone, bricks, and glass.
Industries partaking in crushing, grinding, drilling, sawing, and cutting materials such as sand, stone, concrete, mortar, and more are where these particulates become airborne pathogens. When the mass of the material is broken or cut, crystalline silica dust becomes more lethal, as it can be almost 100 times smaller than ordinary sand. Crystalline silica dust is often swept to assist with cleanup, which is a huge mistake as it becomes more lethal while in the air.
Consider your industry and the types of conditions you or your workers are exposed to. If any of these conditions are present, measures must be put in place to protect workers and their future health:
- Abrasive blasting with sand
- Manufacturing brick, concrete, or countertops made of stone
- Cutting or crushing stone
- Sawing brick or concrete
- Drilling or sanding into concrete
- Grinding mortar
- Industrial sand used in foundry and fracking
OSHA’s whole initiative against crystalline silica dust is to protect the 2.3 million people now exposed to silica at work and to protect those who will be going into an industry that is exposed to silica while on the job. Workers who spend a prolonged amount of time exposed to crystalline silica dust are more prone to being diagnosed with the following diseases:
- Silicosis – a lung disease that results in disability and death.
- Lung cancer – which shows symptoms, such as chest pain, wheezing, and weight loss. These symptoms only show themselves when the cancer is advanced.
- Kidney disease – where fluid builds up in your body and, without treatment, your kidneys can fail to result in death.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – begins as flu-like symptoms, but then results in tightness in your chest and needing to catch your breath.
Crystalline silica dust is a threat and will continue to be a threat if industries are cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, and crushing materials that contain the silica mineral. OSHA outlines standards for construction specifications and all other industries with maritime. These standards should be followed to be compliant, but more importantly, should be followed to protect your workers.
Dust collection systems and industrial vacuums can aid with the cleaning of dust particulates to assist with silicosis prevention. HEPA filtration systems are equipped with silica dust prevention by catching a real number of particulates out of the air, encouraging a healthy breathing area for workers. If your industry is not currently equipped with a dust collector, or HEPA filter, consider the advantages with silicosis and silica dust prevention.