We make specific recommendations below, but first a little background...
Working in the manufacturing or construction industries usually means working near what’s known as silica dust, or respirable crystalline silica, which is commonly found in and around construction and manufacturing sites. It’s created by cutting, grinding, drilling, or crushing stone, rock, concrete, brick, mortar and other construction materials.
Silica dust poses a direct and serious threat to the health of anyone working near this dust. If you and your team are exposed to silica dust, you’ll need to wear a silica respirator. Use this guide to protect your employees from the effects of silica dust.
OSHA Silica Standard for Workers
Back in 2016, OSHA updated its safety requirements for silica dust, marking the first regulatory update on silica dust exposure in 45 years. The new ruling sets a new PEL (permissible exposure limit) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour shift.
The ruling also requires employers to monitor their work environment so they’ll know whether their employees are being exposed to silica dust. To take the most accurate readings, use personal sampling pumps that are fitted to each employee, so you can record the amount of silica dust in what’s known as the breathing zone, the area around the person’s nose and mouth. You’ll also need to test your workspace every three to six months to see if silica dust levels have changed. You can also hire a professional industrial hygienist to collect and analyze the samples for you to make sure you’re complying with the latest OSHA silica standards.
If your workspace surpasses OSHA’s PEL for silica dust, you’ll need to provide silica respirators to your workers. You should also use ventilation to remove silica dust from the air, limit worker access to high exposure areas, develop a written exposure control plan, and train your team on the risks of silica dust and how to limit exposure. Keep these safety requirements posted throughout your workspace.
Choosing a Respirator for Silica
When choosing a respirator for silica dust, look for a NIOSH rating of N95 at a minimum. There are a variety of styles available, from a 2-strap 'dust mask' style up to a full face respirator, with re-usable half masks in the middle. Making sure that you have a good fit is very important. The N95 rated filter will capture 95% of the dust particles, but only a good fit insures that all of the air is filtered. As an upgrade, we suggest also looking at P100 filters. These are rated even higher, to capture 99.9% of the particulates.
While most respirators come with an adjustable strap, you need to make sure your workers have access to safety equipment that fits. Proper fit is key to choosing a respirator for Silica. Some masks may be too small or too large for some workers, so team leads should provide a variety of options to their team. If workers have facial hair, it’s best to find a respirator that covers their entire face to keep air from leaking through the sides of the mask.
The Moldex 2300 N95 Respirator with Exhalation Valve is a disposable silica respirator, which makes it a great choice for workers that are not regularly exposed to silica dust. The exhalation valve increases the exchange of fresh air with every breath to keep workers cool and comfortable on the job.
The 3M 6000 half mask respirator offers good fit qualities at a reasonable price. The filters are replaceable at low cost. For N95 rating, use the 3M 2071. For an upgrade use the 3M 2091 P100 rated filter.
The Moldex 9000 Series Full Mask Respirator is completely reusable and will stand the test of time. It’s lightweight and easy to take on and off. It comes with a built-in exhale valve, and an easy lock system, which makes it easy to attach filters and cartridges. We suggest pairing this mask with the Moldex 7940 P100 rated filter. This combination provides maximum protection from Silica Dust.
Use these products to protect your team from silica dust and other respiratory hazards. For more information about choosing a respirator for silica dust, contact the safety professionals at PK Safety.
A respirator mask works only as good as it fits. It won’t protect you from hazards if it doesn’t fit your face properly.