The dangers of crystalline silica dust

Published 2/12, 2020 at 11:55

European regulations concerning exposure to crystalline silica dust have been tightening. “This concerns all manufacturers and users of floor preparation equipment,” says Blastrac marketing manager Europe, Clements Charpentier.

Charpentier is keen to point out the importance of respecting the European Directive concerning crystalline silica dust. “This issue concerns every manufacturer and every final user. It is already an issue in the US for quite a long time and it has now arrived in Europe. The regulations have been a little bit different from country to country in Europe where some countries have had very strict regulations long before the US OSHA regulation, and other countries not. Now the European Union has one directive that concerns all European countries.” 


What is crystalline silica dust and why is it dangerous?

Crystalline silica is a common material that is found in construction materials such as stone, concrete, bricks and mortar. When workers scarify, grind, cut, drill or crush material that contains crystalline silica very small dust particles are created. Typical crystalline silica concentrations include manufactured stone up to 90%; sandstone, gritstone, quartzite and flint more the 70%; concrete and mortar, 25% to 70%; shale 40% to 60%; china stone up to 50%; tiles 30% to 45%; slate up to 40% and granite up to 30%. Workers who inhale these very small crystalline silica particles are at increased risk of developing serious silica related diseases, including silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or kidney disease. That is why manufacturers and management of contracting firms are obligated to protect and educate operators.


New European Directive

On 17 January 2020 the new European Directive 2017/2398 (amending 2004/37) came into effect regarding the protection of workers from the risk related to exposures to carcinogens or mutagens at work. Member states are directed to bring into force laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply. In Article 18a, Annex I, which defines the list of substances, the following point has been added: ‘6. Work involving exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust generated by a work process’. Exposure to respirable crystalline silica (very small particles at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand found on beaches and playgrounds) can occur during common construction tasks, such as using grinders, scarifiers, masonry saws, drills and handheld powered tools.


How can we help protect workers from silica dust?

In order to help protect workers, Charpentier made three points when it comes to choosing approved equipment. “Blastrac has always developed and built machines focusing on three things, mainly user friendliness, environment friendliness and health and safety.” All Blastrac technologies are purely mechanical and therefore very clean. None of its technologies creates air pollution or uses chemical substances. With all its equipment, operators are able to work dust free thanks to local exhaust ventilation which are required characteristics to remove hazardous materials. Blastrac’s latest machines and dust collectors are made to comply with NEPSI & OSHA’s ‘Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard’ for construction. Blastrac’s dust collection systems contain a filter cleaning mechanism and a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter of at least 99.97% efficiency in removing mono-dispersed particles of 0.3microns in diameter.


Dust collectors and remote controlled systems

Whichever technique is selected for the removal of hazardous materials, using a performing dust collector specifically designed for decontamination jobs is a key factor in order to guarantee the operators safety and protect the environment. This includes a good bagging system and the right filters such as M-Class filters, H14 HEPA filters, Longopac system, pre separators, bib bag systems and screw conveyors. Another easy way for operators to avoid direct contact with hazardous dust is to use remote controlled machines. In this way, operators are able to use the machine from a safe distance. On most of the latest machines Blastrac has developed a remote controlled option is offered. This also applies with several other manufacturers. 

Furthermore, all Blastrac machines can be equipped with a vacuum measurement system. The machine automatically stops when the vacuum inside the dust hose is too low. This device makes sure the dust collection system is sucking up all the dust, thus creating a safe and dust free environment.

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