Silica Dust Toolbox Talk
Learn about silica dust and why it can be harmful to humans, especially when working closely with it often.
Silica Dust Safety Talk
In recent years there has been a lot of talk about silica dust. OSHA has even issued new regulations to protect workers from exposure to silica dust. In the past, there were no regulations and many workers were becoming overexposed and getting sick.
The CDC reports that over 1.7 million workers come in contact with silica dust while at work. All construction job sites are dusty, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are dangerous. If the dust contains pulverized rock and concrete then there is cause for concern. In this safety talk, we will discuss what silica is, explore the hazards and health effects associated with it, and give you some ways to prevent overexposure.
What Is Silica?
Silica is one of the most common minerals that you can find in the earth's crust. Glass, beach sand, silicone, and granite are all forms of silica materials. There are two forms, crystalline and noncrystalline. Crystalline silica is the bigger worry of the two for health reasons.
The most common form of crystalline silica is quartz. Quartz can be found in sand, gravel, clay, granite diatomaceous earth, and many other forms of rock. Non-crystalline silica is found in glass, silicon carbide, and silicone.
When talking about silica exposure it is referring to crystalline silica or quartz. Construction workers could be exposed to silica when cutting, grinding, drilling sanding, mixing, and demolishing materials that could contain silica.
The size of the silica particles determine the amount of the risk. Silica particles are airborne and the smaller particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs where they cause damage. The larger particles do not pose much of a threat because they can not be inhaled.
Health Hazards and Risks
Overexposure to silica can present many health hazards. When the small particles are inhaled they can penetrate deep into the lungs causing dangerous and sometimes fatal lung diseases including silicosis and lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as kidney disease.
How To Prevent Overexposure To Silica
Now that you understand the health hazards that are related to breathing in silica dust it is important to know how to prevent overexposure. Some tips include:
Once you understand the hazards of silica and how common it is in the construction industry you will want to focus on how to prevent overexposure for yourself and others. Knowing what materials can expose the dust is the first step to being more cautious. Even when you are performing a task that will create silica dust there are ways to protect yourself if you follow the simple tips above.
If you are worried about exposure to silica dust on the job site talk to your foreman. If you think you have been overexposed you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Your health is important to your employer and should not be taken lightly.
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