Injuries and Illness

Occupational Lung Disease: Preventing Dust Exposures

At one time, crystalline silica exposures were a concern in construction and mining, and only older workers who had been exposed for long periods of time developed the disabling lung disease called “silicosis.” But workers in new industries and applications—fabricating granite countertops, hydraulic fracturing operations, and denim sandblasting among them—are suffering significant exposures. Also, silicosis is affecting younger workers more than ever—between 2011 and 2013, 12 deaths in workers younger than 45 years old listed silicosis as causing or contributing to death.

So, controlling exposures to crystalline silica is a concern for increasing numbers of employers. But a new, low-cost, tested control method is available for reducing silica dust.

Shop Vacuums for Dust Control?

The method was developed for workers cutting fiber-cement siding, an increasingly popular construction material that contains silica. When cut, it creates fine dust particles that workers can inhale.

Join Camfil on Tuesday September 15, for the complimentary webinar, Using Wet Scrubbers on Highly Combustible Dust

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), says attaching a regular shop vacuum to a dust-collecting circular saw is a simple, low-cost solution to reduce exposure to dust produced from cutting fiber-cement siding. The method could be adapted to other applications.
The findings are based on research by Chaolong Qi, PhD, who noted, “Implementing this intervention, with a tool these workers are already likely to have available to them, can protect workers from a potentially deadly disease.”

Steps for Containing Silica Dust

To implement this idea, NIOSH recommends the following measures:

  • Use a shop vacuum with an airflow rate of 30 cubic feet per minute (CFM) or higher with a hose connected to the circular saw.
  • The hose used to connect the shop vacuum and circular saw should be 1.25 inches or greater in diameter, should be only as long as necessary, and be kept straight.

There are many advantages of using wet collection on combustible dust. We will also discuss when dry collection should be considered and the precautions that need to be taken when doing so. Click here to learn more!

  • A high-efficiency disposable filter bag can be used as a prefilter in the shop vacuum to capture most of the dust.
  • The shop vacuum and circular saw can be plugged into an intelligent vacuum switch, which turns the vacuum on and off and ensures the vacuum is running while operating the saw, avoiding uncontrolled dust release.
  • Use only circular saws with a built-in dust collection container or shroud that functions as a hood, partially encloses the saw blade, and can easily connect to a shop vacuum.
  • Use polycrystalline diamond-tipped (PCD) blades designed for cutting fiber-cement siding.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at prevention recommendations for another lung disease: tuberculosis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.