An emerging health and safety concern for those in construction is the rise in knowledge surrounding respirable crystalline silica. These are very small particles, invisible to the human eye that are created when work activities such as cutting, sawing, drilling of materials (concrete, stone, block, mortar) exposing the worker to respirable crystalline silica. This can have devastating results spanning from silicosis and lung cancer to kidney disease.
To prevent and protect at-risk workers OSHA began rolling out one of the two new OSHA standards regarding crystalline silica exposure on September 23, 2017. OSHA has begun to enforce these standards for these types of construction projects due to their higher exposure risk. While the general industry and maritime will see the enforcement of these standards mid next year.
How does this new standard affect you, and how can contractors protect themselves now?
The first step is identifying the hazards in your workplace. Contractors can refer to the OSHA consultation program for advice on how to follow the new OSHA standards and what actions can be implemented to help prevent illness.
The OSHA consultation program aims to assist both employers and employees in creating a safe working environment that provides respiratory protection when required. The program also allows business to implement a written exposure control plan to keep records of medical examinations. For the full list of steps and visit the OHSA website.
Invest in Silica compliance equipment
Investing in equipment to protect yourself, workers and bystanders will demonstrate the physical steps you have taken to protect from the exposure respirable crystalline silica or any other related hazards that are present.
Dust Collection and Containment
Dust suppression is key to maintaining minimal exposure that can occur during cutting fibre cement board, tuck pointing, dowel drilling or using hand-held mounted drills.
With a mobile dust containment cart, not only are all of the requirements of dust collectors met, but they are surpassed by providing protection and isolating the hazard among the various points around the construction site.
Creating negative pressure containment is recommended to confine crystalline silica particles to an enclosed area and filter the air exhausting out of the containment space. Containment can be created using a modular containment system, or traditional poly barrier methods and then incorporating a Portable Air Scrubber or Negative Air Machine to help clean the air.
A few features that a contractor should look for when choosing a HEPA vacuum to help ensure that they are meeting the requirements of OSHA include:
- A vacuum that is true HEPA, not one that just has a HEPA filter. This means your vacuum should have no bypass and be able to pass a DOP/PAO test.
- HEPA filters that are at least 99.99% efficiency and .3 micron (tested and certified)
- CFM (Cubic Feet/Minute) and water lift for the tools it’s being attached to
- Wet and dry availability based on the conditions of the work environment
The best way to protect and minimize hazards during construction is to abide by the legal standards set out by OSHA. Choosing the proper equipment and training programs can be the cost-effective solution your business needs to protect yourself, employees and occupants.
To learn more about products that compliment the OSHA standards such as portable air scrubbers, negative air machines, dust containment solutions, and HEPA vacuums talk with an Abatement Technologies air quality specialist.