Silica Hazard Raises Concerns in Construction
Silicosis strikes many workers in the construction, sandblasting and mining industries, according to the CDC. It’s caused by exposure to silica or silica dust – essentially sand. An estimated 2.3 million U.S. workers are estimated to be exposed to respirable crystalline silica through their jobs.
Dr. David Guidot of Emory University School of Medicine says the exposure comes from inhaling very small particles of sand that have aerosolized, or turned into fine dust.
“If enough of this dust is inhaled, you can’t clear it, and immune cells eat these dust particles, causing inflammation that can lead to scarring,’’ which makes it difficult for the person to breathe, he says. Silicosis can range from a mild case to very severe scarring. The only treatment, Guidot says, “is to remove someone from the insult [the exposure to the dust]. You can’t reverse the silicosis with any medical therapy.’’
Deaths from silicosis are becoming rarer in the United States, and the number of related deaths has dropped to about 100 a year. But there are no statistics about the prevalence of silicosis, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, which is part of the Atlanta-based CDC. NIOSH conducts research and makes recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness.
Most people with silicosis will survive the disease if it is recognized early enough and the exposure is ended, Emory’s Guidot says. He notes that silicosis-related deaths remain common in China and other countries that are becoming more industrialized but still do not have strong occupational safety regulations.
With sandblasting, a worker can inhale large quantities of silica, says Dr. William Davis of Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia. He sees a few cases of the disease each year. “It’s always an occupational exposure — silica fibers are inhaled into the lungs,’’ he says. Silicosis can take several years to develop, Davis said.
NEW! Silica Safety Awareness Training
Enviro Safetech provides a 1-hour silica safety awareness level class according to the new Cal-OSHA requirements.
Cal-OSHA Title 8 Construction Safety Orders (CSO) section 1532.3 requires employers that have employees exposed to silica at or above the silica action limit provide the following:
The following topics will be covered in our class:
For more information please contact us: