Hazards of Silica in Construction – How Do You Control the Hazard?

Silica dust or quartz is a common mineral found in construction materials. It is one of the most hazardous substances in a construction site causing health conditions such as silicosis. The situation is preventable but incurable and often causes fatal lung disease.

Chronic silicosis usually occurs after more than ten years of exposure to crystalline silica. It, however, occurs much earlier when there is heavy exposure to the mineral. Silicosis symptoms may include fatigue, cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath. One of the best ways to prevent the hazardous effect of silica is to remove dust from the air in construction sites or other places where silica occurs.

Here is a look at the different ways you can control silica and keep your workers safe:

Eliminating silica dust from your work site

Elimination means that you completely get rid of silica from your workplaces. However, eliminating silica is not a practical solution for most workplaces since you cannot make silica without the end product or service using it. If you can eliminate silica dust from a workplace by removing processes that generate dust at your workplace. For instance, you can adopt a production process that generates less dust or use a wet method that will likely generate less dust than a dry process. You can also treat the dust from the point of generation since this is the most effective method of capturing dust.

Substitute silica with other chemicals

If your work process allows it, you can replace a product that contains silica with a less hazardous product, lowering the risk of exposing your workers to the hazardous effects of silica. It is important to note that substituting the products will only depend on your workplace and your workers’ tasks. The substitution method might not be practical for workplaces where silica is naturally occurring or cannot be eliminated from the final product or the service you offer. You can use silica-containing products that do not need to be ground, cut, or polished or use a paste or liquid silica product.

Isolate your workers from silica dust

Isolation involves placing distance or barriers between silica and your workers. It is the best way to protect your workers from exposure to the hazard. Placing physical barriers is the best way to ensure that your workers do not come into contact with silica dust. Some isolation control measures you can apply include isolating high dust generation work processes in a separate room with restricted access. You can also provide exclusion zones and physical barriers between the different workers and workstations to prevent the silica dust from moving from one work site to the next. You can also distance the work process that produces silica dust from other workers in your station.

Silica is one of the most hazardous substances that occur as a result of the construction process. It is crucial to ensure that you protect your workers from exposure by either eliminating or substituting silica products in your work process allows you to.