Dangers of Silica Exposure



When working with silica, take the following precautions to protect yourself and others.

     • Use all available work practices — water sprays, ventilation systems and
     blasting cabinets — to control dust exposures.

     • If you’re working with a new material, check the label for silica. If silica is listed,
     refer to the product’s safety data sheet (SDS) for more information.

     • Always wear proper personal protective equipment. When respirator protection
     is required, wear only a N100 NIOSH-certified respirator, or a Type CE
     abrasive-blast supplied-air respirator for abrasive blasting.

     • Make sure you stay properly trained in the use and maintenance of your
     respirator. Contact your supervisor or other designated person if you
     need assistance or have any questions.

     • Don’t alter the respirator in any way.

     • Always inspect your respirator before use. Alert your supervisor and replace
     your respirator if you find a crack, puncture, tear, leak or any other unusual

     • Shave facial hair when you’re going to be working in environments that require
     a respirator. Even a tight-fitting respirator will not create a good seal
     between the respirator and your face if you have a beard or mustache.

     • Wear disposable or washable work clothes and shower if facilities are
     available. Vacuum the dust from your clothes or change into clean clothing before
     leaving the worksite.

     • Be aware of the operations and job tasks creating silica exposures in your
     workplace environment and know how to protect yourself. Ask your supervisor
     if you have any questions.

     • Be aware of the health hazards related to crystalline silica exposure. Habits
     like smoking can add to lung damage caused by silica.

     • Don’t eat, drink, smoke or apply cosmetics in areas where silica dust is
     present. Wash your hands and face outside of dusty areas before performing
     any of these activities.

Although silica looks like dust, it’s much more harmful to your lungs. Silica dust is a human lung carcinogen, and breathing it in causes the formation of scar tissue on the lungs, reducing lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. Without proper protection, exposure poses a serious threat to workers. The most severe exposures to silica dust result from abrasive blasting, but those working in cement and brick manufacturing, tool and die, maintenance, and steel and foundry manufacturing are at high risk as well.