The construction industry accounts for the most dust produced, especially silica dust. These tiny dust particles can easily be inhaled and pose grave health concerns. Luckily, some means and tools help to counter the effect by controlling dust emissions. However, the practices and tools need to be used from the onset until the work is done to protect employees and the surrounding environment. Some of these practices include:
Reducing or eliminating the amount of dust produced
To remove dust from the air and mitigate the effects of exposure, silica dust should be reduced or eliminated. This can be achieved by using wet-cutting techniques instead of dry ones. You can also opt for liquid silica instead of dry ones, which produce a lot of dust during cutting, grinding, drilling, or sawing. However, if only dry material can be used, wet the materials before working on them. You can also reduce the amount of airborne dust by employing a water mist. However, caution should be taken to avoid accidents such as slips and falls.
Additionally, you can reduce the time your staff spends working with or around silica to lessen dust production and employee exposure. While at it, ensure your staff members wear specialized PPE (personal protection equipment) to keep dust off their clothing and stop dust emissions from spreading while they’re not working.
Isolate dust-producing activities
To keep silica dust contained/isolated, enclose the area where it is being produced. You can also limit exposures and keep workers away by setting up a perimeter around the source of the flying dust. However, you should be keen in cases where employees need to access the enclosed area. There might be a lot of dust that can be emitted and spread. In such a situation, utilize exhaust and vacuum systems with sufficient filtering. If cleaning is necessary, try to dampen and sweep the area with water or a dust control tool.
Site ventilation is an engineering control measure to decrease employee exposure to dust in a worksite. To accomplish this, airborne dust must be removed using a local exhaust or vacuum tool system before it enters the operator’s or nearby workers’ breathing zone. However, keep in mind that an exhaust hood design that effectively captures airborne dust is necessary for this to be effective. As a result, for the exhaust system to effectively control exposure, it must be appropriately designed.
Additionally, users must ensure that it is regularly configured by the manufacturer’s instructions and stays that way throughout use. Hence, employees should also be trained in properly using the ventilation system.
Employees must be aware of the dangers posed by exposure to silica dust. This includes those, directly and indirectly working with silica materials. They should be trained to wear, use, and store PPE properly. While at it, set up a clean-up area for the employees to wash up after each session. Lastly, the system must be maintained and serviced to ensure optimal air exhaust. However, one can easily be exposed to dust during system maintenance and should wear protective respiratory equipment.
For silica dust control efforts to be practical, you may need to use a combination of elimination, isolation, ventilation, and employee training. Moreover, the steps should be something other than one-time practices. They should be employed consistently for good results to be achieved.