Silica Exposure: Dangers for Pool Contractors

Silica exposure from concrete or masonry

Silica exposure and crystalline exposure have become hot topics for contractors who deal with concrete or masonry construction.  There has been a focus and investment in researching the long-term effects of over exposure to these fine dust particles. Our concrete, masonry, and pool installation contractor customer base have been impacted. They are implementing new processes and procedures to keep their workforce safe. We will break some of this information down into a few parts:

  • Define silica and crystalline.
  • The long term effects of silica exposure.
  • What does a Silica Exposure Control Plan entail for business owners in these trades?

What is Silica?

Silica is one of the most common minerals found on Earth. It is found in sand and rock, and formed from silicon and oxygen. There are 3 main forms of silica: cristobalite, tridymite, and alpha quartz. Long term research has shown the most dangerous to human health is alpha quartz.

Long Term Effects of Silica Exposure

In the form of microscopic dust particles, silica is ingested through your nasal cavity and mouth. The pieces are undetectable by the human eye. Once in the body, the fine particles deposit in the lungs and build up over time.

Typically, these particles become airborne from the use of a masonry saw, blowers, core drills, jackhammers and grinders,. These tools cause the material to “break up” creating dust. 

Silicosis is a disease from silica dust. It can even be deadly in severe cases. Silica dust damage tis permanent and irreversible to date. There are three types of Silicosis: Chronic, Acute, and Accelerated. Each is determined by the level of exposure, as well as the time being exposed. Symptoms include severe cough, shortness of breath, and general body weakness.  Bronchitis, lung cancer, and tuberculosis can result from Silicosis.

As you can see, there is reason for concern here! Protecting your employees from over exposure to the silica particles is paramount.

Silica Exposure Control Plan

OSHA requires these plans. We have worked with construction trades customers to find a solution for creating these plans. But regardless of their requirement, we believe they create best practices for trades contractors to keep the workforce safe from long term hazards of silica exposure.

We are going to give a brief description to some of the items that should be included in the Silica Exposure Control Plan.

Please note: There are a number of resources you can utilize to put these plans together. Insurance providers, government entities, law offices, and trade groups can all play a part in this process for you. Find the solution that fits for you.

What is in the Silica Exposure Control Plan?

  1. Introduction to Silica:
    • Definition
    • Basic background to what causes it
    • Long term effects
  2. Purpose of the plan:
    • Reason the plan is being incorporated into the business.
  3. Responsibilities
    • What is the employer responsible for?
    • What is the employee responsible for?
    • This can further be broke down by supervisors, general labor staff, safety coordinators, controllers, and ownership.
  4.  Exposure limits:
    • Sets up OHSR limits and the amount of exposure that is deemed safe for the type of business.
    • Levels must be reduced to ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable)
  5. Identification Risk
    • Products could present an exposure of silica to the user.
  6. Overall risk assessment
    • Assess exposures
      • Implement monitoring devices
      • Implement necessary programs
  7. Risk control
    • How you actually control the exposure to silica?
    • Type of controls in place to limit the exposure.
  8. Educating and Training
    • How will you actually educate employees and staff on silica exposure?
    • Implement new safety meetings solely around silica exposure.
  9. Safe Work Procedures
    • Most comprehensive part of the entire plan
    • Breaks down all of the tools and equipment used that has a potential to cause silica dust to become airborne.
    • Proper tool usage.
    • Protective devices to be used on the machines.
    • Utilization of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the employee operating the equipment.
  10. Documentation
    • All steps of this process from new employee orientation to monitoring results.
  11. Regulations
    • Requirements from all Federal, State, and Local offices as it applies to silica exposure.
  12. General information
    • Write ups from various types of entities to better educate ownership, board of directors, and employees.

Plan in Place to Keep People Safe

Finally, as you can see, these plans can be complex yet essential! Implementation helps to ensure a safe workplace. Bellyaching will likely result from having to follow the regulations.

Note: These plans could change at any time. Requirements could change depending on the entity or municipality. Here we are strictly providing basic information about silica exposure and the necessary precautions.

We are glad you are here! One of our contractor insurance specialists is ready to design an insurance plan that fits your needs and budget!