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OSHA Regulations for Silica Dust

What is Silica Dust?

Silica dust is found in many compounds on Earth. The most common form of silica is Quartz, which is found in sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, mortar, etc. Silica dust is mostly found within industries that are cutting, grinding, or mixing any of these materials. This can range from someone cutting brick on a residential project, to the largest product facilities in the world. This means that OSHA’s new compliance rules with regards to silica dust and human exposure will impact many people and many industries.

What you need to know about OSHA’s New Silica Rule

OSHA made a final ruling in 2016 with regards to silica dust and human exposure to the dust. The rules are being put in place to limit the exposure of respirable crystalline silica for workers at plants where silica is found. The previous exposure limits have been found to not go far enough and in 2016 OSHA ruled that tougher rules needed to be put in place. Most facilities have until June 23rd, 2018 to come into compliance.

How OSHA Rules Relate to the Central Vacuum

  • Facilities now need to constantly clean their facility to limit exposure to the dust. They are putting systems in place to capture the dust before it leaves the equipment from which it is generated. These systems, however, are not 100% air tight and material still will get out. Machines also break or have “blow-outs” which can lead to thousands of pounds of material that is all a sudden needs to be dealt with.
  • Previous methods of cleaning facilities included brooms and shovels as well as compressed air “blow downs”. Both methods can kick the material into a cloud, therefore, making the silica dust airborne thus creating an exposure issue.
  • Facilities have basically two ways to handle the dust, vacuums or water. Both have their pros and cons, but vacuum usually wins out in most facilities due to expensive cleaning systems needed to clean dirty water on plant grounds.

Industries Affected by New OSHA Silica Dust Rules

  • Glass products
  • Pottery products
  • Structural clay products
  • Concrete products
  • Foundries
  • Dental laboratories
  • Paintings and coatings
  • Jewelry production
  • Refractory products
  • Ready-mix concrete
  • Cut stone and stone products
  • Refractory installation and repair
  • Railroad track maintenance
  • Hydraulic fracturing for gas and oil
  • Construction
  • Abrasive blasting in
    • Maritime work
    • Construction
    • General industry

Silica Dust Exposure Risks

  • Silica dust is hazardous when very small (respirable) particles are inhaled. These respirable dust particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause disabling and sometimes fatal lung diseases, including silicosis and lung cancer, as well as kidney disease.
  • Occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica occurs when cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing of concrete, brick, ceramic tiles, rock, and stone products. Occupational exposure also occurs in operations that process or use large quantities of sand, such as foundries and the glass, pottery and concrete products industries. OSHA estimates that more than 2.3 million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to dust containing crystalline silica with nearly 90% of those workers employed in the construction industry.

How Can Silica Dust Be Controlled?

The best way to capture the dust is at the source. For this, large dust collection machines are the equipment of choice. Dust will always escape and that is where vacuums will come into play.  

Silica dust needs to be collected either from the air stream or off a surface with a piece of equipment that is designed to do just that. American Vacuum is on the surface side of the equation. We must collect the material, filter the air and discharge the material into a container of some sort. We also will have a HEPA filter on all vacuums to ensure that no particulate will be discharged out of our vacuum.

American Vacuum has been around for over 110 years and has the experience to back it up. Having handled hazardous materials for the better part of our existence, we know what it takes to properly design and build a system for a facility’s needs. From HEPA filtration to abrasion resistant equipment, we know how to handle this material.  We have many options for silica dust collection including powerlift, air operated vacuums as well as central vacuum systems. Solutions are dependent ant on the needs of a facility. Contact us today to learn more!

Case Studies

Discover Our Case Studies

American Vacuum has been manufacturing Industrial Vacuums including portable, stationary, and central vacuum cleaning systems since 1910. We have installed over 500,000 Industrial Vacuum Systems across the United States and pride ourselves on being a family owned business. Please take a look at some of the case studies below to learn a little more about how American Vacuum is an industry leader and constantly pushing the industrial vacuum industry forward.