Silica Dust Exposure Prevention

September 2023 Safety Topic

Safety Topic: Silica Dust Exposure Prevention    

Over 2 million construction workers and nearly 300,000 industry workers in the United States are exposed to silica dust. Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in the ground. When construction materials are harvested, manufactured, or produced using natural elements from the Earth, these materials may then contain silica. 

Respirable crystalline silica dust is created during normal construction activities when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, or crushing silica-containing material like concrete, brick, and stone. Super-fine silica particles are released into the air, and workers are in danger of inhaling this dust. Workers that inhale crystalline silica are at increased risk of developing silica-related diseases that can be incapacitating or even fatal. 

A dust mask is not enough! Respiratory protection is only permitted when other dust control measures are not sufficient.

To limit exposure to silica dust, implement the following control methods:

  • Avoid working in dusty work environments whenever possible.
  • Use enclosures that isolate the work process.
  • Use vacuums to collect dust.
  • Use tools equipped with shrouds and commercially available dust collection systems.
  • Wet dust before sweeping it up, or vacuum dust instead of sweeping it.
  • Never eat or drink near dusty areas.
  • Shower (if possible), and change into clean clothes to prevent carrying the dust from the work site.

For more information or questions about silica dust exposure prevention, please get in touch with your supervisor or a Campus Life Safety & Regulatory Compliance team member.