Dry sandblasting, grinding, cutting, sanding, polishing, and drilling of silica-containing materials like concrete, rock, glass, asphalt, cement and engineered stone are considered hazardous tasks in construction. This is because you create silica dust that is too small to settle that floats around undetected in the air that can be breathed in by you and those around you.
The tiny silica dust particles can penetrate your respirator if you aren’t careful. Make sure your respirator has been fit-tested and isn’t worn over a beard. You must also have the correct filters, as Silica dust is 100 times smaller than sand and can penetrate some filters.
Step 1: Understand what happens when you inhale silica dust.
Step 2: Know the silica content of your construction materials and substitute for less hazardous materials!
Damage to the lungs from silica dust and symptoms of disease may not appear for many years. Workers may not show any symptoms, even at the point of initial diagnosis, which is why prevention and health monitoring is critical. Often workers are diagnosed during routine health monitoring, as chest X-rays may show scar tissue formation even if you are without symptoms. Silicosis symptoms may include a dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, chest pain, and unexplained weight loss. Silicosis also increases your risk for other conditions like lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, kidney disease, and some auto-immune diseases.
Tell your doctor about your current or previous exposure to silica dust. To rule out silicosis, respiratory questionnaires, lung function tests, chest X-rays, and CT scans may be required.
Early detection of silicosis, before symptoms develop, can motivate you to stop further exposure, and improve your health outcome.
If you were exposed to silica dust currently or in the past, even if you wore respirators and even if you have no symptoms, you need routine health monitoring. Talk to your employer. Tell your doctor about your exposure. Engineered stone workers must see specialist occupational health doctors. Early detection is most important!
It is important to understand that there are very likely specific requirements you need to meet to ensure you are appropriately managing the risks. WorkSafe has plenty of information available to learn more. We have provided a few key links below for you:
You can also contact our friendly team if you have any questions.