What You Need To Know About Silica Exposure In The Workplace
Construction and industrial workers are often exposed to a high level of dust. Some of that dust, also known as crystalline silica, is considered a serious health hazard. In order to understand the serious nature of this type of exposure, we need to first understand what crystalline silica is.
Crystalline Silica Defined
Crystalline silica, also commonly referred to as silica or quartz can be found in concrete, rock materials, soil and even normal sand.
Construction work often entails grinding and chipping away these materials. By doing this, the air becomes heavily saturated with crystalline silica particles. Hence, the workers can easily breathe in silica and potentially harm their health.
How Can You Be Exposed To Silica In The Workplace?
Construction, hydraulic fracturing, industrial and maritime workers are highly exposed to crystalline silica in the workplace. According to concreta.com, at least two million workers in America are at the risk of crystalline silica every year.
Additionally, you are also exposed as long as your job involves the use of materials that contain crystalline silica. Below are a few tasks that will increase your exposure to silica:
Grinding and drilling of rocks
Quarry Work or mining
As long as you work in a place that involves the above-mentioned activities, you are at risk of silica exposure. Every time dust particles increase in the atmosphere, so do the level of crystalline silica in the air.
What is the exposure limit? - OSHA guidelines
Whenever we breathe in crystalline silica, we breathe them into our lungs. Over time, the level of crystalline silica is likely to build up in your lungs. This, in turn, causes tremendous lung damage.
Due to how dangerous it is to human health the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidelines on silica exposure. These guidelines are specifically limited to exposure of the American population and workers. They include:
Employers are required to put into effect regulations and practice controls within the workplace. For example, they are required to use dust collection systems.
Employers are also required to measure exposure in their workplace and limit access to highly exposed areas
Employers are also required to offer medical help and examinations to their employees
OSHA has limited exposure to workers to 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air. Please note, that only exposure of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air every eight hours
How Can You Protect Yourself?
There are ways of protecting yourself from high exposure to crystalline silica. Below are a few guidelines that may be helpful:
Do not eat or drink anything in a dusty work environment
Avoid using tobacco products in a dusty work environment as well
Wash your face and hands after leaving the work environment or even before eating or drinking anything
Always wash up and get a change of clothing after you leave the dusty working environment
While working, be sure to have on PPE including, dust mask or respirator, goggles or other eye protection and clothing suitable for work that can easily be washed.
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