The thing about silica that is very hazardous to a worker’s health, has to do with its nearly invisible presence within a work environment. Silica is produced in certain fields such as fossil fuel procurement, construction and working in the landscaping industry. This hazardous material is a byproduct of other processes and materials. Workers who are exposed to silica must exercise a lot of caution to keep from contracting health degrading symptoms related to this substance. The following information will provide valuable information about silica safety and how to detect this substance.
What Occupations are at Risk for Silica Poisoning?
There are certain professions where silica is produced as a byproduct from the work that is being performed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists these specific professions to inform people about this hazardous material. Jobs such as concrete mixing, cement manufacturing, construction worker, brick mason, mining machine operator and heavy equipment mechanics are at risk from being affected by this substance. There are high risk professions where silica workers experience a higher than normal rate of exposure. These professions include the foundry industry, sandblasting, rock drillers and roofers who apply bolts to roofing materials. OSHA not only informs workers in these fields about the hazards they face from silica; they also provide instruction about the best way for these individuals to protect themselves.
What does Silica do to a Worker’s Body Over Time?
The primary concern for silica protection and awareness has to do with the material’s ability to cause lung disease and lung cancer. The Silica Safe website also tells us that a small amount to this substance typically produces these results in most people. Workers who work in a field where there is exposure must only be exposed to a low dose of this substance called the Permissible Exposure Level. Even then that low dosage amount might still be enough to create serious health problems for an employee. Employers generally value their workers. Silica dust control systems are put in place by OSHA to provide approved safety protections for workers.
What Safety Measures are Put in Place for Silica Workers?
The first line of defense is to use water or a vacuum to eliminate silica before it becomes airborne. When workers drill or somehow disrupt a piece of material they should use a large amount of water during the process to keep silica from forming. Workers typically have a water application that is part of the task that they are performing. Water will naturally weigh down the silica and specialized vacuums will simply suck the dust away before it becomes a problem.
Other measures for silica control include respiratory protections. Objects such as face masks, breathing masks and dust masks can be used for this purpose. Workers are encouraged to use disposable or work only clothing at the work site. They should change their clothing before they leave the job. Workers must also avoid trying to eat or do any other type of activity involving breathing or ingesting food while they work with this substance. Working with silica should not be taken light and workers are strongly encouraged to minimize its impact at all cost.