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Silica dust inhalation hazard

Breathing in very fine particles of crystalline silica from prolonged exposure to respirable dust that is generated when materials like engineered stone, concrete, tiles, bricks and mortar are cut, sanded, or drilled can cause extremely serious illnesses such as silicosis, lung cancer, and heart disease.

The Workplace Exposure Standard (WES) is the airborne concentration of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) above which workers must not be exposed, which is currently set at 0.05 mg/m3. Exposure to hazardous levels of dust can be reduced considerably by avoiding dry processes that generate airborne dust like regularly dry cutting, grinding, crushing, drilling, or sweeping materials that contain crystalline silica. However, if tasks are performed that involve exposure to crystalline silica for a very short period over the day it is unlikely that the exposure standard will be exceeded (assuming no exposure for the rest of the shift).

What do you need to know?

  • Where possible, eliminate tasks that generate respirable silica dust
  • Apply water suppression systems to reduce dust generation
  • Use dust extraction and capture at the source i.e. on-tool dust extraction and water suppression on portable tools
  • Use well maintained and appropriate respiratory protective equipment (RPE) i.e. respirators
  • Use dust class H vacuum cleaner and/or wet methods to clean dusty floors or surfaces
  • Avoid sweeping and compressed air as this will push the dust into the air
  • Don’t take dusty clothes home – where possible remove and clean your clothes at the workplace
  • Have the necessary instruction and training in correct fitting, use and maintenance of respirators
  • Follow instructions and controls outlined in safe work method statements (SWMS), safety data sheets and product labels

For more information on solutions for silica dust hazards.

To help keep your worksite safe, contact HIA's Safety Services team.

Enquire now

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