Fine crystalline silica particles present a health hazard when inhaled into the lungs. Airborne dust is created when materials or products containing silica in the workplace are cut, sanded, drilled or crushed.
Silicosis – What Is It?
Silicosis occurs when dust containing tiny crystalline silica particles are inhaled, scarring the lung and resulting in a severe shortness of breath. The damage is irreversible. Breathing in crystalline silica particles can also result in the development of lung cancer and kidney damage.
Managing the Risks
By minimising the generation of airborne dust, capturing any dust that is created and using personal protective equipment, hazardous exposures and illness in the workplace can be prevented.
SafeWork NSW has developed a set of clear guidelines to help workers protect themselves and others in the workplace:
- Eliminate where possible, tasks that generate dust
- Substitute where possible (e.g. composite stone) with safer products
- Use exhaust ventilation systems to capture and remove dust at the source
- Use dust capture systems on portable tools
- Apply water suppression systems to reduce dust generation
- Use well maintained and appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g. respirators)
- Avoid using compressed air to remove or clean settled dust
- Follow instructions and controls outlined in safety data sheets and product labels