Falling from a height of 10 feet or less is currently the number one killer of construction workers. However, many safety professionals agree that within 5 years, the leading cause of death will be from lung diseases related to the job site ingestion of Silica dust.
Silica is the “new” asbestos…..but more dangerous!
The danger lies in the fine silica particles that are invisible to the naked eye, these particles imbed deeply into the lungs. Silica particles NEVER leave the lungs and will continue to build up, eventually leading to fatal lung failure.
With the wide use of construction diamond tools, there is now more Silica dust created than ever before. Diamond tools create 10 times more dust than conventional abrasives.
The danger with Silica dust is that airborne particles stay suspended in the air for up to four hours.
An entire job site could become contaminated and workers well away from the primary source can still experience a high Silica exposure rate. Due to the fact that Silica dust is invisible to the naked eye, many people are unaware that they are even being exposed to it.
The dangers however are not limited to the jobsite because you get to bring it home!
Your family gets their fair share of Silica dust exposure from your clothes, and of course they will be exposed to that airborne silica dust for the rest of the evening.
This issue has become a huge problem for the construction industry that is now just being recognized, as a generation of construction workers are now experiencing lung diseases at an alarming rate.
If you recall, a few years ago when you bought a cut off saw, the water kit for the blade guard was optional. Now, all these saws come standard with water kits. Doesn’t that tell you something?
There is a lot of misinformation around the term HEPA. HEPA is a generic term used in the vacuum industry. It stands for High Efficiency Particulate Absorption. You probably have a HEPA vacuum at home, but you wouldn’t use it to vacuum concrete dust.
There are different “standards” that are associated with HEPA.
The HEPA medical filter has 99.99% efficiency @ 0.3 microns. This is the only accepted standard for the control of airborne particles of lead, asbestos and silica.
Anything other than these standards, allows the silica dust particles to pass through the filter and re-enter the working environment.
For medical HEPA filters to qualify, they must be individually tested and certified in a laboratory conducted by a registered technician.
When a filter passes the test, the filter is given a serial number and a certificate of inspection. Often a sticker with the test results, date of testing, serial number and technician’s signature is put directly on the filter. Without the sticker or certificate, the filter is NOT a medical HEPA certified or tested filter.
In jurisdictions that require a medical HEPA filter to be used to collect silica dust, non- compliancy can result in a fine or a job shut down.
I strongly encourage all who provide their workers with this type of equipment, or rent this equipment, to ensure it meets the HEPA medical standards. By providing equipment that is not up to this standard, may expose the company to future health liability claims.
If you have any questions on this subject, please contact us or your local health authorities.