Crystalline silica is a natural element that can be found in concrete, soil, and rock, among other things. The crystalline silica exists as tiny particles that when inhaled, get trapped in the lungs and reduce the ability of the lungs to take in oxygen, leading to silicosis. Silicosis is permanent lung damage that can turn fatal. As such, it is important to control your employees’ exposure to crystalline silica. Implementing effective control and management practices such as wet cutting and the use of personal protective equipment can help reduce health risks. In this post, we will address the methods of controlling silica dust exposure starting with.
These are changes to processes, equipment, and materials that are made to make them safer for workers. There are specific activities that increase employees’ exposure to silica dust such as dry cutting, and the use of solid or powered materials among others. As you redesign your engineered dust control measures, ensure you use methods like wet cutting to control silica dust. As a way to control dust, you could also try to close off and seal off the area where silica dust is made. To reduce exposure, this could be followed by limiting the amount of time each employee spends working in such an area. Lastly, get the right ventilation systems and other tools to collect dust where it starts.
The administrative controls are hazard control measures that include procedures, policies, training, and designs that seek to reduce the threat of a hazard on an individual. In the case of silica dust, you could modify the way work is organized and done to reduce employee exposure. This will include reorganizing your schedules and rotating employees to limit the time each one works on high-exposure tasks. You could couple this with regular breaks at the end of each period to allow your employees to rest and recover.
Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPEs) is protective gear such as goggles, respirators, and clothing designed to protect one from exposure to hazardous materials. Such equipment is necessary for employees who constantly work on silica dust-producing materials. They also shield you from the dangers of accidents and injuries like cuts and burns. Once you have this equipment, make sure your workers know how to wear it, use it, clean it, and store it. In addition, you could set up a cleaning area for employees to wash up after each rotation.
Employees should be made aware of the risks they’re exposed to when working with crystalline silica. They should be trained on how to properly handle materials and equipment to reduce dust on emissions and exposure. This training should be done regularly to ensure everyone is up-to-date with the engineering and administrative control as well as proper use of the PPEs.
Medical surveillance and monitoring
Lastly, employees should receive regular medical surveillance to help with the early detection and prevention of respiratory illnesses related to silica dust exposure. The work area should also be monitored regularly to check the silica dust levels. Proper measures such as redesigned engineering controls can then be used to lower the levels.
Crystalline silica dust is a hazardous material that can lead to fatal consequences. As such, it is important to adopt better practices such as administrative control and the use of PPE to protect employees.