Potential Costs for Exposing Workers to Silica Hazards
Virginia Occupational Safety and Health issued five citations and $304,130 in penalties to Lanford Brothers Company for exposing workers to respirable crystalline silica hazards while using jackhammers to remove concrete from bridge piers. Inspectors determined that the company did not provide adequate eye and respiratory protection, failed to assess each worker for exposure to respirable crystalline silica, and permitted workers to use jackhammers and concrete saws without proper control methods.
Silica is found in many materials at construction sites, such as sand, concrete, rock, mortar, and brick.
During tasks that disturb these materials (cutting, grinding, blasting, and jackhammering, for example), dust containing crystalline silica can be released into the air.
Workers who inhale this dust are at risk of developing serious, sometimes fatal illnesses such as a lung disease called silicosis, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It has also been linked to illnesses such as kidney disease.
How do you control silica exposure?
- Use vacuums and/or water to reduce dust at the source, before it becomes airborne. When these controls are not enough, use respiratory protection.
Before you use a respirator, your company has policies that need to be followed such as having a medical evaluation and fit testing of the respirator before use.
- Keep dust control systems in good working order and check vacuum filters and hoses regularly to make sure they are not clogged.
- Do not use sand (or other substances containing more than 1% crystalline silica) for abrasive blasting. Substitute less hazardous materials. If a less hazardous material is not available, use the appropriate respiratory protection.
- Avoid eating, drinking, and smoking in areas where there is silica dust.
- Leave the dusty area and wash your hands and face. Do not brush or blow dust off.
- Avoid bringing dust home. Vacuum the dust from your clothes or change into clean clothing before leaving the work site.
Let’s be safe out there!