What is Silica?
An inorganic compound formed by combining silicon and oxygen atoms. There are two types – Crystalline & Amorphous. Crystalline is the most hazardous and it is the one we are talking about today. Quartz is the most
common form of Crystalline Silica. It is the second most common mineral on the Earth’s surface. Beach sand is nearly pure quartz!
Why is it Dangerous?
When you make Silica, small and airborne, it can be breathed in. Unfortunately, when you breathe in small particles (the respirable crystalline stuff), it can cause chronic medical issues like:
- Silicosis: scarring of lung tissue
- COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
- Lung Cancer
- Respirable Crystalline Silica exposure has also been linked to Kidney Disease and autoimmune conditions like Lupus
What are some of the sources of silica dust:
- Cutting, sawing, jackhammering, scabbling, bush hammering, and scarifying while working with concrete.
- Pouring, breaking, mixing, and/or coring into cement, mortar, or grout.
- Earth disturbing, scraping, sacking, patching while working with asphalt, aggregates, sand, soil (fill dirt, topsoil, etc.).
- Demolishing, grinding, sanding, sweeping or cleaning while working with brick, block, stone, tile, drywall, fiber cement products.
- The above examples are not all the sources, there are several more.
How do we protect ourselves?
- We must plan our jobs – every person, every day – in an attempt to eliminate and substitute Silica exposure.
- Modify our work practices with engineering controls, such as wet methods, ventilation, HEPA filtration, and other protections help keep Silica levels under control.
- As a last line of defense, when Silica dust can’t be kept under certain limits, we must wear PPE to protect us from breathing it in.
- Very importantly, everyone won’t be expected to work with the respirable form of crystalline silica, only selected crews.
- Like any other hazardous material, if you aren’t one of those selected crews, STOP and contact your foreman before attempting to do anything that involves respirable Crystalline Silica dust!