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Workers need to take precautions against exposure to silica, a basic component of soil, sand and granite that can present a hazard on construction sites.
There are many ways to be exposed. Sand, for instance, can be 100% quartz, which is where most crystalline silica is found.
Silica is contained in many commonly used building products, including mortar, grout, cement, stucco, plaster, bricks/blocks, rocks/stones, ceramic tile, drywall joint compound, fiber-cement board (used for siding) and sandblasting materials.
Over extended periods of time — 10 to 30 years — exposure to high levels of crystalline silica can lead to chronic silicosis.
Exposure to high levels of crystalline silica that can be breathed in can cause acute or accelerated forms of silicosis that ultimately can be fatal.
Silicosis can lead to heart failure, has been linked to several forms of lung cancer and can increase the risk of other diseases such as tuberculosis.
It is important to take corrective measures to reduce employee’s exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
A simple control may work, such as using a water hose to wet down dust at the point of where it is being generated.
Some additional steps that can provide protection:
- Always use the dust control systems that are available for many types of dust-generating equipment, and provide good maintenance for them.
- When sawing concrete or masonry, use saws that provide water to the blade.
- Use local exhaust ventilation to prevent dust from being released into the air.
- Minimize exposures to nearby workers by using good work practices.
- During abrasive blasting, use abrasives containing less than 1% crystalline silica to prevent harmful quartz dust from being released into the air.
- The use of respirators should be considered as a last resort, when engineering or administrative controls are not possible or they are insufficient to achieve acceptable limits of exposure.
Respirators should only be used in the absence of other dust control methods. Employees using respirators must be included in a respiratory protection program. (See 29 CFR 1910.134.)
For more information on this health hazard, see NAHB’s Silica Safety Card.
For further information, email Marcus Odorizzi at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8590.
The video provides an overview of the key safety issues that residential builders and workers need to focus on to reduce accidents and injuries.
Based on the NAHB-OSHA Jobsite Safety Handbook, this DVD is intended to be used as part of an essential residential construction safety-training program and includes two 20-minute videos on one DVD.
To view or purchase this DVD online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.