Dust containing silica is common on construction sites, and Laborers frequently perform tasks that expose them to dangerous concentrations of this dust.
Common pathways of exposure include cutting, drilling, grinding, dry sweeping or otherwise disturbing materials that contain silica. Breathing that dust can lead to serious and sometimes fatal illnesses including silicosis, lung cancer, tuberculosis (in those with silicosis) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although silica is a serious public and worker health problem, with the appropriate controls and work practices in place, these diseases can be prevented.
To help protect workers, the CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training – has developed a new web-based tool. It is very informative, interactive and designed to help workers, contractors and other stakeholders Work Safely with Silica.
Designed as a one-stop source of information, the new website features information and functionality to help end-users identify silica hazards, understand the health risk and, most importantly, find the appropriate equipment and methods to control exposure to this potentially harmful dust. This comprehensive website features both a history and the latest information on regulatory efforts, training materials, examples of what’s working in the field, research findings, news articles and responses to frequently asked questions. Two of the most important features of the website provide specific information and tools to help contractors understand, identify and control the hazard.
With the “Create-A-Plan” tool, users can develop job-specific plans for controlling silica exposures in just three easy steps. The tool includes options for identifying silica content, determining the level of exposure and controls and finding available controls. The “Know the Hazard” section explains why silica is hazardous, its risks, health effects and actions contractors and workers can take. The “Training & Other Resources” section provides users with access to silica-specific information in a variety of formats including presentations, videos, hand-outs and training guides. The “What’s Working” section highlights steps that contractors, manufacturers, workers and researchers are taking to address the hazard and offers users a way to share their successes and challenges.
Once a plan is finished, it can be printed, emailed and/or saved as a PDF. Another useful feature allows a user to confidentially save plans so that they can be retrieved, edited and used at a later date. To help users, the CPWR has prepared a webinar available online at Occupational Safety and Health. The webinar provides a guided tour through the three-step program.
Work Safely with Silica is a work in progress. Please share content and suggestions for the website by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Input will help protect workers everywhere. To try out the new website, visit Work Safely with Silica.
In addition, the LHSFNA has a number of publications that are silica-related. These can be accessed through the Publications Catalogue.
[Travis Parsons is the LHSFNA’s Senior Safety and Health Specialist.]