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Dust off those silica hazards!

It’s no secret the construction industry has one of the highest deaths from silicosis—a disabling and often fatal lung disease. It’s likely you well know the dangers of silicosis, but do you keep those dangers top of mind?

Your exposure

You’re at a high exposure if you conduct work including, but not limited to:

  • Masonry,
  • Concrete demolition,
  • Concrete sweeping,
  • Pressurized blowing of concrete dust or sand,
  • Jackhammering, and
  • Removing paint with power tools.

Could this happen to you?

If you fall into the work categories mentioned above, take a look at the following real-life scenarios.

A tile installer was diagnosed with silicosis, emphysema, and asthma age 49. Although he didn’t directly perform risky tasks, he worked near sandblasting and was exposed to silica dust. He never wore a respirator. (Note that tile installers can also be directly exposed to silica dust when cutting tile).

A 39-year-old sand blaster was diagnosed with progressive silicosis after he reported shortness of breath, wheezing, and lack of energy. He worked for 22 years sandblasting welds during water tank construction, and wore a charcoal filter respirator while sandblasting. However, it was the wrong type of respirator and it did not protect him.

A 36-year-old man died from advanced silicosis after working as a sand blaster for 11 years. He had been exposed to silica dust for only three years while sandblasting oilfield pipes and tanks.

A 30-year-old sand blaster died 10 years after his first exposure to silica dust. He had been exposed to silica dust for only four years.

Protect yourself

The scenarios above should simply be used as a reminder to protect yourself whenever you’re on the job. Follow good work practices to minimize dust. Wear, maintain, and correctly use respirators if they are issued to you, and always participate in air monitoring, medical surveillance, and training programs.