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Silica dust toolbox talk

silica dust toolbox talk

Silica dust is one of the hazards people can be exposed to every day of their lives while working in a workplace or at their homes. Sand, gravel, clay, and stones contain silica. It is crystalline. Some of these materials release silica dust when carrying out an activity. Other products where you can find silica include bricks, tiles, concrete and some plastic materials. Silica dust is one of the causes of cancer in the human body.

Silica dust exposure.

Silica dust is 100 times smaller than the grain of sand. That’s why it is easy for people to inhale it into the lungs. It is very harmful when inhaled as it causes various kinds of diseases. Among who are

1. Lung cancer

2. Kidney diseases

3. Silicosis

4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Occupation with the highest exposure.

Many occupations are at risk of silica dust exposure. Those occupations are 

  • Miners.
  • Farmers
  • Engineers.
  • Construction workers.
  • Mason.
  • Carpenters.

Activities that can expose someone to silica dust include.

  • Demolition work.
  • Engaging in road construction work.
  • Masonry activities.
  • Mining activities.
  • Breaking and crushing of silica-containing materials.
  • Bricklaying activities.
  • Manufacturing activities for glass, ceramics, tiles, and metal machinery.
  • Casting activities.
  • Grinding of materials containing silica.

Silica dust in the lungs.

When the silica dust finds its way into the lungs, due to its micro nature, it becomes trapped and causes inflammation in the lung tissue. The inflammation reduces the lung’s ability to take in oxygen necessary to support life. This condition is silicosis and can result in permanent lung damage. The person may be at risk of death.

Silicosis disease

Silicosis can develop after two or more years of exposure to silica dust. It may even happen when workplace exposures are not happening again. Silicosis has symptoms which are

  • Cough.
  • Fatigue.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain.

However, as it is now, silicosis has no cure. Doctors can recommend Lung transplants for some patients to treat the condition.

The control measures against silica dust exposures

  • Employers are required under the law to create a safe working environment and offer safe procedures for workers at work.
  • The employer should control any risks involved in the work activities by providing necessary personal protective equipment. 
  • There should be periodic monitoring for silica dust to monitor its concentration at any time.
  • The workers exposed to dust must be under health surveillance. Proper health monitoring assists in detecting any loss in the worker’s lung functions.
  • All workers should work in enclosures or hoods and have LEV to remove the dust at the source.
  • Use correct equipment for activities involving silica.
  • Ensure that the workers use fibre cement sheet shears instead of circular saws in cutting silica-containing sheets.
  • Put a dust suppression system in place when using a rock drilling machine.

The control measures against silica dust exposures

  • Provide a dust collection system with air conditioning for all vehicles and equipment.
  • Always order the correct size of material instead of cutting them at the workplace to prevent silica dust.
  • Engage the services of a competent person in all activities involving silica dust.
  •  Use wet cutting for all your cutting activities to reduce the dry dust in the work area.
  • Train your workers on the use of work equipment for the silica work.
  • Use water when sweeping to control the dust from the ground.
  • Make use of water mist to control any airborne dust in the environment.
  • Isolate other workers from the silica dust activities by using a barricade to form a perimeter around the source of the dust. 
  • Do not use compressed air to clean out any dust from a surface.

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