Reducing Exposure to Silica Dust

It is important to limit workers’ exposure to silica dust as over-exposure can cause silicosis – a potentially fatal condition. This article explains why silica dust exposure is dangerous and explores the various options available for reducing silica dust exposure.

What is respirable crystalline silica dust?

Frequently referred to as quartz, Silica is a common mineral found in many materials on construction sites, including soil, sand, concrete, masonry, rock and granite. The dust is typically created by either cutting, grinding, drilling or simply disturbing these materials which may contain crystalline silica particles. The dust particles may be very small and often invisible to the human eye but when silica dust is inhaled, it can become imbedded deep in the lungs.

Why is silica dust dangerous?

Respirable silica dust is hazardous and can readily lead to silicosis, which is amongst one of the oldest industrial diseases. As silicosis progresses, shortness of breath can occur, and clinical tests will reveal a poor exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. In its later stages, sufferers may experience persistent coughing, fatigue, extreme shortness of breath and sometimes even complete respiratory failure.

OSHA has estimated that approximately 1.85 million workers are currently exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in construction workplaces.  More than 500,000 of these workers are likely being exposed to silica levels greater than OSHA’s proposed permissible exposure limit. These exposures occur during common construction operations such as cutting, grinding, or abrasive blasting of silica-containing materials like concrete.

What methods are currently being used to reduce workers exposure to silica dust?

1. Using a HEPA filtered manual vacuuming process

Using a vacuum for removing dust from clothing and skin is a very difficult and time-consuming task to perform. In addition, it is nearly impossible to effectively clean an operator’s back without additional help from a co-worker. Because of this, very few companies employ this technique and prefer to use a single compressed air hose to blow dust from their clothing, which brings us on to the next point…

2. Using compressed air nozzles for blow-off

The use of compressed air to remove dust from work clothing is prohibited by OSHA due to the main fact that it operates using high pressure, low volume air which if used incorrectly, can be extremely dangerous. Compressed air can become a hazard if it is directed towards the human body and can penetrate human skin if precautions are not taken.

3. Using no method for reducing silica dust

This means that workers are wearing contaminated clothing on their work breaks, and on their way home from work – resulting in unnecessary increased exposure. Doing nothing to clean contaminated clothing is obviously the worst possible scenario for the company and its workers. A worker can be forgiven for their lack of knowledge and awareness, but there should be no excuses for a company to ignore the problem as they are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of all workers.

How can we help you to reduce workers exposure to silica dust?

The JetBlack Safety Cleaning Booth provides a safe and highly effective means of removing and extracting dust, fibres and other contaminants quickly and efficiently from workers clothing. Using low pressure, high volume blower-driven air, the Cleaning Booth is particularly suited to agitating and removing stone and cement dust from employees’ work clothes without the operator having to remove any clothing or PPE equipment – a process which typically takes no longer than 20 seconds.

The Cleaning Booth is a free-standing unit incorporating our blower-powered, OSHA compliant JetBlack Safety Cleaning Station. The air flow produced (2.52psig/70in.swg) is sufficient to agitate and remove dust safely and presents no threat to personal safety, even if airflow is directed directly at human skin.

In other words, the JetBlack Safety Cleaning Booth provides a safe alternative to the dangerous, yet frequently employed practice of using compressed air for cleaning down.

In operation, the Cleaning Booth is typically sited at entry or exit points of critical areas of the plant such as outside control rooms or office areas where dust contamination would have potential impact on co-workers or equipment. All removed dust can be either collected into bags via a stand-alone extraction and filtration unit, or alternatively ducted into an existing extraction system if present.

Cleaning Booth Features:

  • Self-contained system housed in an all-weather painted steel enclosure
  • System footprint is 3.94ft wide x 4.83ft deep without extractor, 5.94ft wide x 5.1ft deep with extractor
  • Booth weight without extractor is 485lb, and with extractor is 735lbs
  • The design of the booth’s base allows for fork lift truck access for easy handling
  • Electric supply is 208V, 220 & 230V, 1 phase, 50 or 60Hz.


  • Cement Processing Plants
  • Industrial Minerals Processing
  • Silica Processing
  • Lead Recycling
  • Metal Refining
  • Copper Smelting Operations and Plants
  • Mineral Mining Operations
  • Coal Mining and Processing Plants
  • Fiberglass Boat Manufacturing & Repair
  • Quarries

For full details, please visit the Cleaning Booth product page.