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Sandblasting is considered one of the most hazardous jobs due to the high exposure rate of toxic silica in the air during this work. This silica can be life-threatening if proper safety precautions are not put in place to protect employees from dangerous exposure. Additionally, faulty equipment can raise the chance of exposure or lead to other physical injuries.
Silicosis is a lung disease cause by toxic crystallized silica. The silica is an invisible dust particle released into the air as a result of damaging certain rocks such as quartz and granite. Doctors often refer to silicosis as sandblaster’s disease. It is untreatable and incurable. Once contracted, a patient’s lungs begin to fill with a fibrous tissue. Even after the patient ceases his exposure to the silica, his lungs continue to fill with the fibrous tissue. Sandblasting provides the highest rate of exposure to silicosis, especially in circumstances where the patient is working in an area with poor ventilation. If detected early, and removed from exposure prior to the silicosis becoming aggressive, a patient can survive; however, he runs an increased chance of developing further complications from any additional exposure.
Damaged equipment increases the probability of serious exposure or injury. The worker’s helmet must remain in place and functional throughout the process; any damage or malfunction to the helmet risks dangerous exposure to airborne silica. Additionally, sandblasting equipment can lead to bodily injuries if it is not functioning properly and within safety guidelines. All equipment must be checked regularly to ensure that it will perform safely.
Filtered Air System
Workers who use sandblasting equipment are required to wear protective gear that includes an air filtration system with clean compressed air. If there has been any damage to the filtration system or a leak in the air supply, the worker risks dangerous exposure to the silica. Additionally, workers cannot remove their helmets while they are in the work area. The possibility of exposure is high. Air filtration systems should be checked daily to ensure that they will work properly and that the filter is clean.
Contaminated Air Tests
Regular tests on the air in places where sandblasting is taking place are required. Employers are forbidden to let workers return to these areas until they can be properly ventilated and silica levels can return to a safe level. If these tests are contaminated or performed improperly, the results can read that an area is safe to work in even if the levels of silica are extremely high. Redundant tests can lower the chance of a faulty reading.
Kristyn Hammond has been teaching freshman college composition at the university level since 2010. She has experience teaching developmental writing, freshman composition, and freshman composition and research. She currently resides in Central Texas where she works for a small university in the Texas A&M system of schools.