Four Questions to Ask Concerning the New Silica Dust Rules

When fracking started growing in popularity, a researcher at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health wanted to learn more about health hazards at the jobsites. He expected to find issues with exposure to oil and gas but his attention was quickly drawn to all of the dust. There was dust everywhere; on machines, in piles, and on workers. When he measured the silica levels, he noticed that levels were 79% higher than acceptable levels. Most of the workers he asked just thought this was dirt. 

This is not just dirt and shouldn’t be treated as such. We know that these are incredibly harmful particles that need proper handling techniques. You’re going to need something to control airborne silica, so here are a few questions to ask when shopping around. 

1) What is my current airborne silica content percentage?

You’re going to have to measure your exposure levels to determine how bad the situation is currently. The study noted above found that the construction sites’ silica levels were so bad that even a personal respirator wouldn’t help. This is the most extreme situation, but without having this information, you may be drastically underestimating the silica content in the air. If levels are much higher than originally anticipated, you will need to invest in some equipment that will be able to capture dust particles at greater rates.

If your company already has a certified industrial hygienist then you should consult with that individual on his or her thoughts on your airborne silica levels. However, there are a number of resources online to find a professional hygienist who will be able to accurately report on the air contents. Having a proven silica level is the first step in determining what piece of equipment you need.

2) How am I currently handling the dust around my workspace?

Take a minute to think about your current processes for handling dust buildup. How are your employees transferring or handling sand? Where is dust piling up? What are you doing to address its removal and disposal?

It is important to avoid any process that puts dust into the air.  Sweeping, shoveling and open-top conveyors allow increase airborne dust levels.  Using an air compressor or blower to clean machinery is particularly bad.

HEPA vacuums like the Hurricane Vacuums manufactured by Industrial Vacuum Equipment Corp. can be used to replace current clean up methods.  These vacuums use negative pressure to pull the silica dust back to the vacuum for safe dust free disposal.

3) What makes sense for my current operations?

Vacuum systems, such as the Hurricane Vacuum from Industrial Vacuum, can be a good solution for material handling.  They can move large quantities of sand quickly and efficiently without increasing dust levels.  If other processes, such as grinding or shaking, have already created airborne dust, a dust collector can be used.  It actually takes dust out of the air, and reduces airborne silica levels.

4) How long will this equipment last?

This is going to be a significant investment for you and your team. It will also need to last well into the future, as the OSHA regulations aren’t going away anytime soon. So you want to make sure that you’re wisely spending your dollars on a piece of equipment that will last for decades under strenuous conditions.

Additionally, what is it going to cost your team in maintenance and upkeep? Will you have to replace parts over time or continually service the machine? Ultimately, are you purchasing from a dependable supplier? The dependability of this machine is vital to not only your operations but your workforce’s health. So you want to make sure that your provider understands your operations and can offer a machine to fit that. Learn more on how Industrial Vacuum Equipment Corp. has helped similar businesses choose the correct HEPA vacuum or dust collector.