Crystalline silica is a mineral found in most rocks, sand, and dirt. People who work in occupations involving rocks, sand, concrete, or abrasives are vulnerable to high levels of silica dust exposure.
Breathing in silica dust can cause silicosis – an incurable lung disease. Many people who work around silica dust are unaware of the danger, and may not be provided with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Workers Who Are At Risk for High Silica Exposure
People who are most at risk of high silica exposure or silicosis include workers in the following industries:
Construction workers are exposed to silica dust in a variety of ways. Some of the most common jobs or environments that cause exposure include:
- Sandblasting to remove rust or paint
- Jack hammering
- Concrete drilling, mixing, or cutting
- Rock drilling or cutting
Foundry workers may be exposed to silica dust while building, repairing, or demolishing kilns, furnaces, or other structures. People who work in foundries for long periods of time are more likely to develop silicosis due to high silica exposure.
Hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking, is a process used during natural gas extraction. Fracking sand, which is made mostly from silica, is used to hold open fissures near the well opening so that natural gas can flow out. The fracking process generally involves tons of frac sand being loaded, transported, and put into place. Throughout this process, workers are exposed to silica dust.
Glass Bead Blasting
Glass bead blasting is another way to blast away rust, paint, or corrosion from metal surfaces. This form of blasting is considered much safer for workers and the environment than sandblasting, but it still carries a risk of exposure to silica dust and other harmful particles.
While glass is often viewed as being less hazardous than silica sand products, there is a great deal of concern about contamination that could expose glass workers to silica dust. Many synthetic materials used in glass working contain crystalline silica, and can produce silica dust.
Workers who manufacture, finish, or install granite countertops are at risk of exposure to silica dust. Granite, quartz, and sandstone all are known to contain crystalline silica. When these stones are cut, ground, sanded, or polished, silica dust is released into the air. Breathing in silica dust in high concentrations, or in limited concentrations over time, can result in silicosis.
Maritime workers may be exposed to silica dust while working in shipyards, or while onboard vessels or oil derricks. In shipyards, workers may use sandblasting to clean parts or ships, or may use various concrete products. On oil derricks, workers are exposed to silica dust during fracking, sandblasting, and other processes.
Tunneling operations and mining expose workers to silica dust in environments with little filtration or ventilation. Silicosis was once called “miner’s pthisis” because the first known cases involved mining workers.
Porcelain, Ceramic & Clay Workers
Porcelain, ceramic, and clay workers may be exposed to silica dust during the course of manufacturing or working with products containing crystalline silica. Exposure to silica dust is not limited to manufacturing plants or construction sites. People who work around these materials in any industry are at risk.
For example, silicosis rates among people working in dental laboratories has been studied. In addition, certain art and crafting jobs have also been linked to silica dust exposure, including pottery, brick-making, and sculpting.
Railroad workers may be exposed to silica dust while in the process of laying or repairing track. Ballast operations have also been linked to silica dust exposure, including tunneling, track construction, rock drilling, sandblasting, and repairing tracks. Railroad workers most at risk to high silica exposure are those working brooms, tie tampers, undercutters, or other machinery.
No matter what industry you work in, if you use sandblasting to clean metal, remove rust, engrave, or finish stone products, you are exposing yourself to silica dust. Sandblasting abrasives are commonly made of silica sand. When sand is blasted using steam or compressed air, particles break down and silica dust becomes breathable.
Defective Personal Protective Equipment
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has guidelines for personal protective equipment (PPE). These guidelines state that employers must assess work environments and if hazards exist, they must provide employees with PPE. This equipment includes respiratory devices, shields, and barriers designed to prevent exposure to harmful particles or toxins. When PPE is not provided, or is defective, workers are placed at risk for exposure to silica dust.
Has High Silica Exposure Resulted in a Diagnosis of Silicosis?
If you have worked in any of these occupations and have been diagnosed with silicosis, contact the silicosis lawyers at AkinMears, L.L.P. Our attorneys want to talk to you about high silica exposure and the factors that led to your diagnosis. You may have a silicosis claim, and could be entitled to compensation for the harm you have suffered.
Contact AkinMears, L.L.P. today to schedule a free consultation. Reach us anytime by calling 877-534-5750.