Housekeeping Practices to Control Silica Dust
Dust created when working with crystalline silica contains harmful particles. And while respirable crystalline silica looks like dust, it’s much more harmful to workers’ lungs. In fact, silica dust is a carcinogen and breathing it in causes the formation of scar tissue, reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen.
Together, these facts outline the importance of adhering to safe work procedures related to respirable crystalline silica. Among these procedures, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a number of requirements follows to reduce illnesses and injuries related to respirable crystalline silica.
And while it’s important to reduce the occurrence of silica dust, there are specific cleaning precautions we must take when it is created. Let’s examine some housekeeping practices used to reduce the dangers of silica dust:
Avoid dry brushing or dry sweeping whenever possible. The use of dry sweeping and dry brushing can cause respirable crystalline silica dust to go airborne, increasing inhalation risks for workers. In general, dry brushing and dry sweeping should only be used when wet sweeping and HEPA-filtered vacuuming are not feasible.
Avoid cleaning surfaces or clothing with compressed air. Similar to dry sweeping and brushing, the use of compressed air can cause respirable crystalline silica to plume and create inhalation risks. However, you may use compressed air alongside a ventilation system that captures the dust cloud or if no other cleaning method is feasible.
Wet sweeping or the use of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuums are preferred, as they typically don’t increase silica risks for workers. HEPA vacuums are particularly useful, as they can be 99.97% efficient in removing mono-dispersed particles of 0.3 micrometers in diameter—significantly reducing inhalation risks.
There may be instances when wet sweeping and HEPA-filtered vacuums could be ineffective, cause damage or create a hazard in the workplace. In these rare situations, these cleaning methods are not required by OSHA; however, will provide you with alternative protections to keep you safe (e.g., a respirator).
For more information on the dangers of silica dust and how to protect yourself, speak with your supervisor.
Provided by: Hausmann-Johnson Insurance