Silica Dust

Silica, often referred to as quartz, is a natural mineral found in soil, sand, concrete, masonry, rock and granite, particularly within construction sites and quarries.

What is respirable crystalline silica dust?

As a common substance found in most rocks, sand and clay, as well as bricks and concrete, silica is also used as a filler in some plastics. In the workplace, these materials create dust when they are cut, sanded, drilled or carved and this is called respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Too small to see, this dust may be fine enough to breathe in and can become embedded deep in the lungs which can cause serious harm to health such as silicosis, which is one of the oldest known industrial diseases. Silicosis makes breathing more difficult and increases the risk of lung infections. Silicosis usually follows exposure to RCS over many years, but extremely high exposure levels can lead to rapidly ill health, increasing the risk of other diseases such as lung disease and lung cancer. It only takes a small amount of airborne silica dust to create a health hazard.

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.

People who work in the following industries are particularly at risk:

  • Stonemasonry and stone cutting – especially with sandstone
  • Construction and demolition – with particular exposure to concrete and paving materials
  • Pottery, ceramics and glass manufacturing
  • Mining and quarrying
  • Sandblasting

How can you reduce exposure to silica dust?

It is important to limit exposure to silica dust, particularly within a commercial environment where exposure can be high, as over-exposure can be potentially fatal.

However, not doing anything to clean contaminated clothing and skin once it is exposed is the worst possible outcome for the company and its workers. The reason for this is that workers will be wearing contaminated clothing on their work breaks and on their way home from work – resulting in unnecessary and increased exposure for them and all around them. A worker can be forgiven for their lack of knowledge and awareness, but there should be no excuse for a company to ignore the problem, as they are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of their personnel.

Is there a safer solution for removal?

When it comes to removing silica dust, in contrast to using compressed air, which can be very dangerous, blower-driven air has been shown to provide a safer and highly effective means of removing fibres, dust and water from people, surfaces and environments.

By using blower-driven air, the JetBlack Safety range of personnel Cleaning Booths can provide a safer and more convenient solution for personnel clean-down. What’s more, the product range has been designed as an easy-to-use alternative to compressed air, as the low pressure, high-velocity air produced poses no threat to the safety and can be directed at almost any part of the body. This gives organisations peace of mind and users a safer solution for all de-dusting operations.

The JetBlack Safety Cleaning Booth is particularly suited to agitating and removing stone and cement dust from employees’ work clothes; a process which typically takes no longer than 30 seconds. The dust is then safely extracted away from the user and collected in the HEPA H14 extractor.

Personnel Cleaning Station applications include:

  • Cement Processing Plants
  • Silica Processing
  • Quarries
  • Construction Sites
  • Industrial Minerals Processing
  • Mineral Mining Operations
  • Coal Mining and Processing Plants