When tiny silica particles are inhaled it puts workers at risk of silicosis, an incurable, disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. After inhalation, silica dust particles become trapped in the lung tissue resulting in scarring, inflammation, and reducing the lungs' ability to take in oxygen. Those who are exposed to crystalline silica have an increased risk of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease.

Those who operate powered hand tools like grinders, saws, and high-speed polishers have some of the highest silica exposures in the countertop manufacturing, finishing, and installation industries. This type of silica dust exposure comes from dry cutting, grinding, edging, and contouring stone in workshop environments or on job sites where finishing work is completed.

In the manufactured stone product industry, workers are also at risk of silica dust exposure when moving or mixing bulk raw materials, opening bags of ground quartz, cleaning dust collector baghouses, and cleaning and scraping mixers.

What can be done to protect workers from exposure to silica dust?

Employers must determine which jobs and activities expose workers to silica dust and take the appropriate actions to control overexposures. A combination of engineering controls, work practices, training, and installing protective equipment such as air filtration systems is required to protect workers from overexposure to silica.

Blue Ox Air Cleaners reduce 95% of particulate by drawing contaminated air through a series of high-efficiency filters. Our air filtration systems exchange the air in a room 8x per hour until it's clean and are made available in various sizes and filter combinations to meet the demands of almost any application.

Blue Ox Silica Dust Case Study

Granite Transformations tried several attempts to filter the air and reduce the odors in their manufacturing facility but had little success.

We provided them with an OX3000 air filtration system which was installed above the shop's main work area. The air quality has become noticeably better and the epoxy odors have also been greatly reduced!

As an added benefit, the workers also commented that the air circulation helps keep them cool on hot days.

Note: If air samples from your workplace show levels above OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), employers are required to take action to reduce worker exposures to below the PEL.

• The OSHA general industry PEL for quartz, the most common form of crystalline silica, is an 8-hour time-weighted average exposure to respirable dust. For pure quartz silica, the PEL is approximately equal to 100 μg/m3 of air.

• NIOSH recommends that employers control exposure to respirable crystalline silica so that no worker is exposed to a time-weighted average concentration of silica greater than 50 μg/m3 of air, as determined by a full-shift sample for up to a 10-hour workday of a 40-hour workweek.

Reference: OSHA: Worker Exposure to Silica during Countertop Manufacturing, Finishing and Installation

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