Protecting Workers From the Hazards of Abrasive Blasting

Part 1 – Understanding Abrasive Blasting

Each abrasive blasting job is different. Abrasive blasting uses compressed air or water to direct a high velocity stream of an abrasive material to clean an object or surface, remove burrs, apply a texture, or prepare a surface for the application of paint or other type of coating. Blasting can be performed on sites like bridges or buildings but can also be performed in closed areas.

Employees must be trained according to the OSHA standard requirement. Employers must protect workers from hazardous dust levels and toxic metals that may be generated from both the blasting material and the underlying substrate and coatings being blasted.

Using proper personal protective equipment, respiratory equipment, administrative and engineering controls, and proper training, employees can be protected from abrasive blasting hazards. Some common hazards include exposure to chemicals and dust, heat, noise, eye damage, skin penetration, and burns.

Abrasive Blasting Materials: The decision to use a certain type of abrasive material can depend on factors such as cost, job specifications, environment, and worker health. Commonly used abrasive materials: Silica sand (crystalline), Coal slag, Garnet sand, Nickel slag, Copper slag, Glass (beads or crushed), Steel shot, Steel grit, Specular hematite (iron ore).

Alternative, less toxic blasting materials include: Ice cubes, Dry ice, Plastic bead media, Sponge, Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), Ground walnut shells, ground corn cob and other biodegradable materials, High pressure water.

Next week we will discuss protection methods while working with or around abrasive blasting operations. What types of abrasive blasting projects does your team encounter?

Click here to download our free safety meeting on Protecting Workers From the Hazards of Abrasive Blasting!

By: Paul Taulbee