Crystalline silica dust control. How to protect workers against silica dust?


Article by Mr. Clement Charpentier (BLASTRAC Marketing Manager) included in EDI Special Publication 2020. 

Crystalline silica is a common mineral that is found in construction materials such as sand, stone, concrete, brick, and mortar. When workers scarify, grind, cut, drill, or crush materials that contain crystalline silica, very small dust particles are created.Exposure to respirable crystalline silica (very small particles at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand you might find on beaches and playgrounds) can occur during common construction tasks, such as using grinders, scarifiers, masonry saws, drills and handheld powered tools.

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.

New regulations

On 17/01/2018, the new European Directive 2017/2398, amending directive 2004/37/EC, came into effect on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work. Member states shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this directive by 17 January 2020.

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”.

Therefore, it is important to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica. To do so, machines must be equipped with a local exhaust and connected to an appropriate dust collector in order to collect all the created dust.

This dust collector must be equipped with a HEPA filter which traps over 99.995 % of dust with a grain size of under 1 micron. In addition, it is also essential to avoid exposure to dust when changing dust bags and cleaning or replacing the filters.

In addition, it is important for machine manufacturers to work with the European laboratories and authorities to develop the best products for floor remediation including local exhaust ventilation, remote controlled systems, high efficiency dust collection systems…

Local dust exhaust

One of the most important thing when grinding, scarifying, blasting materials that contain silica, is that the machine must be equipped with a local exhaust ventilation.

It means you are able to work dust free when connected to an appropriate dust collector, which collects all the dust and other small hazardous particles that are released during the surface preparation process. This aims to create a safe working environment for operators and people in their vicinity!

Dust collectors

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 goodbagging system and the right filters.

• Longopac bagging system: the Longopac system allows you to collect the dust in easy to handle 25 kg bags, without dispersing dust. The tubelike bagging system is dust free since the bags are replaced and sealed from the outside – there is no contact with the waste.

• Specially designed to deal with hazardous materials: the dust collectors have to be equipped with a H14 HEPA filter, which makes them perfect for hazardous materials & jobsites. They are environmentally friendly dust collectors that aim to improve the safety of the operators.

• Pre-separators: pre-separators can triple the lifetime of the filters because it captures 80-90% of dust before it goes into the dust collector. They are positioned between the machine and the dust
collector. It also prevents reduction in the suction performance of the dust collector. They have to be equipped with a Longopac bagging system which is easy to mount and handle.

Remote controlled systems

An easy way for operators to not be in direct contact with hazardous dust is to use remote controlled machines. In this way, they are able to operate the machine from a safe area.

On most of the latest machines of the market, a remote controlled system is available as an option. It extends the possibilities of the machine while protecting the operator from contaninated dust.
Taking the danger of harmful substances seriously can drive innovation!