The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was founded in 1971, and assures safe conditions for working people. In the abrasive blasting industry, many of the standards that OSHA enforces have to do with silicosis.
What is silicosis?
In the 1960's, the scientific community began to recognize that the inhalation of crystalline silica was the cause of a variety of health conditions.
Blast media that contains crystalline silica poses a threat to both the blasting operator and those around him/her. During abrasive blasting, the silica crystals shatter into sharp points, and when inhaled can cause scarring and stiffening of the lungs, and increased risk of lung cancer. (source)
Due to this fact, OSHA drastically reduced the permissible exposure limit of respirable crystalline silica on June 23, 2016.
How can you limit silica exposure?
OSHA recommends the following three practices, both to limit silica exposure and to ensure the general safety of abrasive blasting workers.
The Dustless Blasting® system makes it easy to comply with these standards.
1. Use a less toxic abrasive blasting material
The recommended blast media for the Dustless Blaster is 40/70 recycled crushed glass. Although sand and crushed glass might look similar to the naked eye, there are microscopic differences between them.
|Silica Sand Abrasive||Crushed Glass Abrasive|
|Crystalline Silica||Amorphous Silica|
|Can lead to silicosis and respiratory diseases||Does not cause silicosis|
Although crushed glass itself does not cause silicosis (source), that doesn’t mean it’s good to breathe it in. Even the safest abrasives can create high levels of dust if they are used in dry blasting.
OSHA states that employers must protect workers from these hazards (source). That’s where the next control method comes in.
2. Use a wet delivery method to suppress dust
OSHA recommends using a wet abrasive delivery method — such as Dustless Blasting — as a primary means of protecting workers (source).
With Dustless Blasting, water encapsulates the abrasive and coating being removed, which prevents them from becoming airborne and being inhaled.
3. Use personal protective equipment (PPE)
Although wet abrasive blasting reduces dust significantly, any blasting operation will create some dust. PPE is an important final step to enhance the comfort and safety of the blast operator.
There are no dedicated products specifically designed for wet abrasive blasting jobs. However, when blasting in confined area, you should use a NIOSH approved blast respirator, such as the RPB® Nova 3®.
- Approved by NIOSH and CE
- Provides eye protection and hearing protection
- Has a wide viewing area to enhance safety
- Serves as a hard hat
Dustless Blasting makes OSHA compliance simple.
Dustless Blasting is a great way to keep workers safe, and keep your business OSHA compliant. This is only a brief overview, but you can read the full guidelines on crystalline silica and abrasive blasting here.