Preventing Exposure to Silica Dust

Silica DustCrystalline silica, often referred to simply as “silica,” is an important industrial mineral that is found in stone, soil and sand, as well as in concrete, brick, mortar and a number of other materials. Prolonged exposure to silica dust, produced while drilling these materials, can lead to illnesses, particularly silicosis and even lung issues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, at least 1.7 million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica in a variety of industries and occupations, including construction, sandblasting and mining. Processes traditionally associated with high rates of silicosis include sandblasting, sand-casting foundry operations, mining, cement cutting, masonry work and granite cutting, as these processes frequently generate silica dust.

Although silicosis caused by exposure to silica dust can’t be cured, it can be prevented.

While there are multiple methods to minimize silica dust in the workplace, HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter industrial vacuum cleaners are often preferred because they can completely collect and retain silica dust without dispersing it back into the environment.

In addition to general cleaning to remove dust accumulations on exposed surfaces, HEPA industrial vacuums can be used in a couple other ways to keep silica exposure limits to a minimum.

For example, consider using vacuum-assisted power tools in conjunction with HEPA-filter industrial vacuums, integrating the vacuum hose into the power tool to quickly and easily suck up dust and debris while the operator simultaneously drills or sands. Another example is to use industrial vacuums to sanitize worker clothes, removing excess silica debris from clothes and uniforms, perhaps and positioning portable industrial vacuum units at the exits of silica work areas.

A HEPA filter industrial vacuum cleaner can be customized to meet these demands, and manufacturers should view the addition of a quality HEPA vacuum as an investment to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.

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