The Dangers Associated with Sand Blasting

Sand blasting is a technique used to clean a surface of dirt, paint and other substances. Using compressed air or water to deliver a high-velocity stream to the target surface, sand blasting is one of the most efficient cleaning processes used in construction. While this technique is effective at clearing a surface, it also presents a variety of hazards to employees if proper safety procedures are not followed.

Silica Sand Risks

Silica sand or crystalline is one of the most commonly used materials for blasting. This material can result in serious hazards and is toxic if not handled correctly. Silicosis, lung cancer and respiratory issues are all serious problems that can occur if workers are exposed while sand blasting. Silica products containing quartz are particularly dangerous and require the use of positive pressure or pressure demand respirators. Without proper precaution, these particles can become airborne contaminants.

Preventing Exposure

The most important step to preventing exposure to toxic silica while sand blasting is training. All employees should be trained thoroughly before operating sand blasting equipment on their own. Personal protective equipment, including safety goggles and respiratory protection, is essential when it comes to limiting exposure to toxic fumes and particles. Without such protection, employees may breathe the sand particles into their lungs. Such exposure can result in lung cancer and other serious health issues. Some health issues present themselves immediately, while others may appear years down the line.

Abrasive-blasting respirators are made specifically to protect employees who are using sand blasting materials such as silica. These devices are worn around the head, neck and shoulders to allow clear respiration. Only NIOSH-approved respirators should be used since these provide certified protection in an industrial environment.

Protective clothing such as leather gloves and helmets can be used to minimize skin contact with sand blasting materials. From skin irritation to an increased risk of cancer, there are a variety of hazards posed by contact exposure to sand blasting materials. The eyes, nose and mouth are particularly vulnerable areas that should be protected with the use of proper safety equipment.

Proper ventilation is another key component of any sand blasting safety protocol. Sand blasting is best done in an open space with ample ventilation. Sand blasting in indoor areas can be made safer with the use of exhaust ventilation systems that are structured to capture dust and prevent it from floating freely in the air where it can be breathed in by personnel. Designated blast rooms also limit the risk of exposure.

Clean-Up Procedures

Even after the blasting process is complete, the area that was used should be cleaned thoroughly to prevent further exposure. Physical contact with silica can pose health risks of its own as the toxins are absorbed through the skin, so it is crucial to remove all traces of the sand materials that are used before employees resume work in the area.

Understanding the risks associated with sand blasting is the key to protecting employees and limiting exposure. If an employee does come into contact with silica or other sand blasting materials, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.