Silica Dust in General Industry: Preventing Exposure

Course Description:

Workers exposed to airborne silica dust face potentially serious health effects, but they can prevent them by learning to identify the hazards at work and practice effective exposure control measures.  This course is designed for workers in general industry workplaces who are exposed to silica dust while performing tasks such as cleaning, milling, grinding, sanding, polishing, and cutting silica-containing materials. By the end of the presentation, you will be able to identify the health hazards associated with exposure to silica dust; recognize job tasks that could lead to exposure; access the respirable crystalline silica rule for general industry; read labels, safety data sheets (SDSs), and signs at the entrances to regulated areas that communicate silica dust hazards; apply silica dust exposure control methods; and describe the medical surveillance program.

Course Duration: 22 minutes

Why “Silica Dust in General Industry: Preventing Exposure” Matters:

  • Silica dust in general industry workplaces is a serious hazard to over 300,000 U.S. workers, including high-exposure risk jobs such as oil and gas fracking, stone cutting, glass manufacturing, foundries, and sandblasting. Airborne silica is the cause of silicosis and can lead to other serious disorders, including tuberculosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—or COPD, kidney disease, and immunological disorders like systemic lupus and scleroderma. The dust particles are typically 100 times smaller than ordinary sand and not visible to the naked eye that can get in the lungs—meaning workers may be exposed and not know it unless the air is monitored, and they are informed about exposure. There are well-known and effective exposure control measures, including engineering and work practice controls and respiratory protection.

Key Points:

The health hazards of exposure to silica dust can be crippling and deadly, like silicosis, lung cancer, and COPD.
Many common activities such as surface cleaning and preparation techniques, milling, polishing, grinding, or other activities that disturb a silica-containing product can expose you to silica dust hazards.
The crystalline silica rule requires that your employer protect you from exposure to silica dust with control measures.
Labels and SDSs provide valuable information on the potential hazards of silica exposure to a material, and signs at entrances to regulated areas reduce your chances of exposure.
Exposures can be controlled by using water, or a dust collection system, and by enclosing the area of the job task to keep other workers away.
Your employer is required to make medical surveillance screenings available to you to identify any silica exposure-related health effects.