On-Site Magazine

More than just dust: Silica dust health hazards and regulations

December 7, 2018  By HD Supply Brafasco

Too often, we think the inhalation hazard of someone cutting, grinding or chipping away at concrete, brick or ceramic – which produces silica dust – is only targeted to the individual doing the task. Many contractors and companies seem to overlook the Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) and provincial standards that require safety controls for the environment, as well as the direct user.

Only seen at a microscopic level in common concrete, brick and ceramic material, silica dust can cause irreversible lung diseases. A sobering statistic from the Occupational Cancer Research Centre of Canada noted 570 lung cancer cases are reported annually due to silica exposure. They note 57 per cent of all silica exposure cases are directly related to construction.

What can we do about it?

If your first answer is personal protective equipment – guess again! PPE is actually the last line of defense. There are other measures that will not only protect everyone’s health and avoid fines, but also increase productivity on the job.

HD Supply Brafasco, a nationwide distributor of construction, industrial and safety products, is keen on ensuring workers and employers are aware of effective measures that keep them safe and productive.

HD Supply Brafasco offers the following Hierarchy of Hazard Controls to help reduce silica exposure limits:

  • ELIMINATE THE HAZARD: At its source, can another material be used that does not contain silica aggregates? If that is unavoidable, is there a plan in place to reduce the main workers’ exposure time to the dust? Many companies effectively rotate workers to reduce exposure risk and keep productivity high.
  • ENGINEERING CONTROLS: These are the tools and equipment put in place to help contain the dust. Cutting and drilling have advanced quickly with attachments that collect the dust, right at the cut and into a chamber. HD Supply Brafasco is one of Canada’s leading providers for small and large companies when it comes to such tools and equipment. There are time- and cost-effective tools that collect the dust on the spot. For example, concrete anchoring is cleaner and faster since the dust is collected through a hollow SDS bit, reducing steps to blow out the harmful dust to install the anchor. Reducing installation steps means saving time and money. Eliminating all the extra dust means healthier workers. HD Supply Brafasco sells various Bosch, Dewalt and Milwaukee trusted products with HEPA and OSHA compliance, allowing a controlled approach to keep the dust off the jobsite and out of your lungs. With over 40 branches across Canada, our team is available to answer any questions you have about silica dust control. HD Supply Brafasco can even provide consultation for tens or hundreds of employees at a company if the safety measures are complex or handled by different personnel.
  • ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROLS: Beyond an efficient scheduled rotation of workers to reduce their dust exposure levels, what other easy options have been exercised? Are there warning signs indicating work area is restricted or unsafe? Keeping in mind silica exposure can affect more than the direct user, we want to ensure everyone on the jobsite is protected. Are there worker-training programs to ensure employees are effectively using the tools to reduce dust exposure, as well as PPE fit-testing? With little to no additional cost, Administrative Controls help put safety first while increasing awareness of silica-related diseases.
  • PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT: If you’ve reduced the hazard at it’s source, collected dust with the right equipment, and implemented administrative measures to control the risk, the last line of defence is a worker’s PPE. The right solution depends on a number of factors. For example, someone doing sandblasting needs different PPE than a light-duty concrete anchoring job. Regardless, HD Supply Brafasco recommends fit testing for all respirators to ensure it’s doing the job you expect for the worker. There are also province jurisdiction level requirements to be aware of.

Generally speaking, HD Supply Brafasco offers solutions for all types of respiratory PPE. For half facepeice masks, check out our lineup of N-, R-, or P-series masks that can operate with a 95 per cent efficiency. Alternatively, there are also full facepeice air-purifying respirators that work with standard filters for further protection on the job.

Everyone wants to return to work healthy and rewarded. HD Supply Brafasco, an authority in jobsite safety products and measures, can help make that happen. With advancements in material options, tools that help workers do the job effectively, and protection measures to eliminate risk, it’s possible to reduce worker exposure to silica dust.

Did this article miss anything on silica dust control on the jobsite? Got more questions on specific product or trades that can use it? Feel free to email HD Supply Brafasco at canadianservice@hdsupply.com

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