Silica Dust: How to Protect Yourself

4 Aug 2020

Silica Dust: How to Protect Yourself

Silica dust is one of the most dangerous hazards for those in the construction and demolition industries.

The inhalation of silica dust (also known as crystalline silica) is a major risk when grinding, cutting, drilling, or polishing materials with silica. This includes common building materials such as brick, concrete, cement, stone, drywall, grout, mortar, and tile.

Because silica dust is so small (it’s about 100 times smaller than sand), it can be inhaled easily and settle deep in a person’s lungs. Constant inhalation of silica dust can cause silicosis, a respiratory disease that can damage the lungs and make breathing difficult.

The Cancer Council of Australia estimates that around 600,000 Australian workers are exposed to silica dust every year, and the number of cases of silicosis is rising in Australia (ABC News).

To protect yourself and your workers from silica dust, you need to make sure that you take the necessary precautions onsite.

Here’s are some of the best ways to do it:

Equip your workers with the right PPE.

One of the most effective ways to protect yourself and your workers from silica dust is to equip yourselves with the right PPE (personal protective equipment) onsite. This is especially important if you know the risk of silica dust is high on the job you’re working on.

There are various PPEs that you can use to protect yourself and your workers, depending on the work you’re doing and the materials you’re dealing with. These may include PPEs like respirators, face masks for silica, coveralls, goggles, and more. You could also consider placing appropriate warning signs for silica dust in areas you know have high risks of silica dust exposure.

Use water strategically.

Spraying surfaces or materials with water before working on them can help prevent silica dust from getting in the air (and out of your lungs!). Many tools and equipment have water attachments you can use to spray water on surfaces while you’re working on them. The less dust you create onsite, the smaller the risk of inhaling them.

Use an industrial vacuum.

One of the best ways to avoid silica dust inhalation is to remove these materials using industrial vacuums onsite. An industrial vacuum can remove silica dust and other harmful particles at the source, collecting them before they go airborne. Many machines and tools have vacuum attachments where you can attach your industrial vacuum to extract the dust as you’re working on different materials. The better you control dust and the sooner you extract it, the safer your worksite will be.

Use appropriate air purifiers.

Another way to minimise the inhalation of silica dust and other harmful particles is to use appropriate air purifiers onsite. Keep in mind that not all air purifiers are the same. You want to use air purifiers with suitable HEPA filters that are capable of filtering silica dust and other minuscule airborne particles. For best results, combine the right air purifier with a quality industrial vacuum to keep the air onsite as clean as possible.

Section off high-risk areas.

In many cases, extracting or collecting silica dust as you’re working is not always possible. In these circumstances, consider sectioning off high-risk areas from other parts of your worksite. One way to do this is to use appropriate dust barriers to contain silica dust in one area and preventing it from spreading.

Safety First – Always

Silica dust is a high risk for many workers in the building and construction industries, and it’s not something you should ever take lightly.

If you’re looking for the right equipment to protect yourself and your workers from silica dust, don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how All Preparation Equipment can help. We have a variety of safety equipment and machines that can help you minimise your exposure to silica dust and keep your workplace safer.