It's dangerous - crystalline silica exposure
Crystalline silica is found in granite, clay, and sand. Workers chipping, cutting, drilling, polishing, cleaning, or grinding materials that contain crystalline silica, create silica dust. Breathing silica dust can lead to life-threatening conditions, including chronic, accelerated, or acute silicosis. Victims of silicosis are more prone to lung infections, including tuberculosis, bronchitis, and emphysema. Crystalline silica exposure is also associated with kidney and immune system diseases, and is classified as a human lung carcinogen.
How are workers exposed to crystalline silica?
Exposure to crystalline silica is a serious threat to nearly two million workers in the United States, especially those who complete tasks that involve abrasive blasting, foundry work, quarry work, rock drilling, stonecutting, cement mixing, and tunneling.
Construction workers can experience extreme exposure to crystalline silica when sandblasting paint and rust from surfaces, including stone or brick buildings, and metal tanks or bridges. Silica dust is also created when jack hammering, or cutting and sawing brick and concrete.
Repair and replacement of rotary kilns and cupola furnaces can expose employees to silica dust, and workers in the oil and gas hydraulic fracturing industry can also suffer exposure. Railroad workers repairing, setting, and laying track may also come into contact with sources of crystalline silica.
How can employers and employees limit exposure to crystalline silica?
• Use existing engineering controls where possible, including water sprays and containment structure ventilation
• When possible, use less hazardous crystalline silica replacements
• Provide workers with appropriate safety products
• Post signs prohibiting food and drink, and smoking in areas where crystalline silica dust is present
• Train workers about crystalline silica dust, where it occurs in the workplace or on the job site, the danger it poses, and how to properly use personal protective equipment
• Wash hands and face before applying cosmetics, eating, drinking, or smoking
• Wear disposable clothing whenever possible, take a shower and put on clean clothing before leaving work
• Provide and participate in exposure monitoring, health screenings, and surveillance programs for adverse health effects
Working together, employers and employees can take steps to help reduce exposure to crystalline silica dust and the dangerous illnesses it causes. Maximize safety with the right safety glasses or goggles, respiratory protection, and protective clothing.