Health and Safety officials warn against gaseous and particulate contaminants.

Health and safety officials are honing in on a new threat in the construction industry – silica dust, which is emerging as an occupational risk for workers in the industry.

Airborne chemical contaminants, including silica dust, have been identified as an area of concern for occupational health and safety enforcers.

According to information by WorkSafeBC, a Canadian health and safety organization, statistics show that traumatic work site fatalities have dropped, while fatalities due to occupational disease are on the rise.

Health effects due to chemical exposure typically take longer to emerge, but people that are exposed over a lifetime are dying in the 50s to 70s, meaning that preventative measures should be put in place.

Silica dust is one of many potentially harmful exposures on construction sites. Crystalline silica dust is commonly found in sand, rock and building materials, such as concrete and brick, and is released into the air each time these materials are cut, ground or drilled.

Prolonged exposure to the fine particles at higher than accepted concentrations can lead to lung damage, experts say, and it is a suspected carcinogen. Chronic silicosis develops after 10 or more years of exposure in relatively low doses.

The Canadian exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica (including quartz) is 0.025 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3).

Workers could be exposed to this concentration eight hours per day, five days per week, without adverse health effects, according to the occupational health and safety regulation. However, the official word is that exposures should be kept as low as possible at all time.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure that workers

  • Protect themselves with a respirator
  • Have the right equipment, including special vacuum cleaners  that capture concrete grinding dust and drills with built-in vacuums
  • Use the safest materials possible, ideally without silica

Air monitoring is also advisable to make sure that certain exposure limits are not exceeded.

Source: Journal of Commerce

Air cleaners for the construction industry

Tiny particles, airborne chemicals and other indoor air pollutants can become a burden for workers and employers alike.

Electrocorp has designed portable yet powerful industrial air cleaners that can help keep the air clean at construction sites.

Whether it’s high efficiency particle filter for woodworkers, chemical and odor control on site, asbestos and mold remediation or any other restoration process, Electrocorp’s product line offers the right unit.

Contact Electrocorp for more information or recommendations.

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