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Protect Yourself from Silica Dust

Keep your crews safe from silica dust by following OSHA standards.

January 5, 2023

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Protecting Crews from Silica Dust

Silica is quartz and found in almost all rock, sand, brick, and concrete products. Silica dust, or the gathering of respirable airborne particles, forms when quartz materials are cut, drilled, ground, crushed, cored, polished, or swept.

This dust can be extremely harmful to people’s lungs and causes serious disease, such as silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, and lung cancer. Silica dust exposure symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pains, a severe cough, fatigue, loss of appetite, and cyanosis.*

OSHA Standard

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has set a “Permissible Exposure Limit,” or PEL, that determines how much silica dust a worker is allowed to inhale over an eight-hour timeframe. This governance was published in 2016. They determined this limit between the amount of airflow, dust created, and time allowance. This will change from worker to worker depending on the height, weight, and fitness level of the worker as well as the type of work and exposure levels.

The average adult male inhales 16.8 cubic meters of air over eight hours. The OSHA PEL is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, so over an eight-hour shift, the maximum legal exposure level is 840 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

A good rule of thumb is that if you can see the dust around you, it’s not a healthy environment. Consider using an air monitor on the jobsite to ensure the safety of your crew.

iQ Power Tools

Controlling the Dust and Keeping Crews Safe

There are different measures you can take to keep your crews safe and minimize or eliminate silica dust exposure. The hierarchy of controls is noted in the infographic above. Some measures could be rotating tasks on site, switching crews, or changing the job requirements or materials. Of course, crews should always be wearing PPE to minimize risks.

Selecting a Diamond Blade and Tips for Use

Blades are offered for a variety of applications. Be sure the blade type matches the job use. Diamond blades can cut through hard materials like steel, concrete, and stone.

Diamond blades are created by dispersing artificial diamond grit on a high-grade steel and the bonds will differ based on application. A stone blade will have a softer bond so the diamond grit will expose more particles. A concrete blade will have a harder bond since the material is softer, allowing the diamond grit to extend its lifespan.

When cutting with a diamond blade, don't rush. Diamond blades grind material, and the cutting surface can overheat or glaze over when run outside the recommended parameters. SiteOne is an authorized dealer for iQ Power Tools, who manufacturers a 16.5" Masonry Saw, which is a completely self-contained dustless saw with a quick reference load indicator.

The iQMS362 saw is a fully self-contained, dry cut masonry saw with an integrated load indicator for quick reference, which is helpful when feeding in materials at the optimum rate.

When using a wet-cutting solution, use water when cutting to preserve the life of your blade whenever there’s a water source on the jobsite. This will also help prevent overheating and reduce or eliminate silica dust exposure.

Read ALL safety labels. Diamond blades have directional arrows – follow these during installation or you could risk injury or death.

SiteOne Can Help

If you have any questions or need help with a job, SiteOne associates are here to help. Shop in-branch, on, or in the SiteOne mobile app for your hardscaping products.

*This article is not medical advice. If you have questions about symptoms or your health, contact your licensed health care provider.

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