Silica Dust Health Hazards and Protection
This Guide is the result of our ongoing quest for new methods of providing you, the stonemasons, with information in the most user friendly format, in order to promote improved safety in the industry.
This Guide includes current information about safety measures work environments where RCS dust is present as well as information that stonemasons around the world have found to be relevant to their work.
The purpose of this Good Practice Guide is to assist you, the employer or owner of the fabrication workshop, in creating a safe working environment for yourself and your employees. We invite you to share this Guide with your employees and use it in your health and safety training.
Following this guide will help you achieve your goal of ensuring that your employees return home safe and sound every day.
A safe working environment is advantageous both health-wise and financially; investing in this issue is beneficial from every point of view.
We at Caesarstone are always at your disposal and welcome any questions, comments or suggestions for improvement of this Guide and the topics raised in it.
This Good Practice Guide includes the following topics:
|Airborne Dust Monitoring
|Reducing Respirable Crystalline Silica
|Personal Protective Equipment
|Cleaning, Maintenance & Hygiene
|Airborne Dust Monitoring
|General Personal Protective Equipment
|Cleaning & Dust Disposal
|Respiratory Protective Equipment
|Equipment & Housekeeping
|Written Exposure Control Plan
ABOUT STONE SURFACES
Caesarstone® is a global leader of premium surfaces, specialising in benchtops.
Caesarstone manufactures a variety of stone surfaces:
- Caesarstone® quartz surfaces are manufactured from up to 90% inorganic, rock-sourced material which is mainly crystalline silica (SiO2) such as quartz and cristobalite; and high-quality polymer resins and pigments.
- Caesarstone MineralTM contains unique minerals, such as Feldspar, with recycled materials with a crystalline silica content of less than 40%, and in some cases, even less than 10%.
- Caesarstone Porcelain is made of clay and other natural minerals and contains up to 20% crystalline silica (SiO2).
Caesarstone surfaces are in use today in millions of homes and commercial settings globally.
SAFE TO USE
Stone products such as Caesarstone surfaces are not hazardous when transported, shipped or used by the end consumer. They are completely safe for domestic and commercial use. However, fabrication processes create RCS dust, which is hazardous to the health of fabrication workers and of any others who are continuously exposed to it, when safety guidelines are not followed. Therefore, fabrication of all Caesarstone surfaces must be performed under carefully controlled safety conditions. Fabrication processes may include cutting, grinding, chipping, sanding, drilling, polishing, installing, dismantling and others.
WHAT IS CRYSTALLINE SILICA?
Crystalline silica commonly occurs in nature as the mineral quartz, and is found in granite, sandstone, quartzite, various other rocks, and sand. It is comprised of two chemical elements: silicon and oxygen (silicon dioxide; SiO2). It is a component of many manufactured products in daily use, such as glass, pottery and benchtops; and of construction materials such as bricks, blocks, tiles, slabs, cement, ceramic and concrete.
HAZARDS OF RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA
RCS particles are tiny enough to enter the lungs. This can cause irreparable damage and can result in silicosis. Unprotected workers are at risk of:
- lung cancer
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- kidney disease
- auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (according to certain schools of thought)
WHAT IS SILICOSIS?
Silicosis is an occupational lung disease thought to have been first recognised in the early 18th century. It may affect workers in the stone fabrication and the construction industries, among others.
Silicosis is an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. It is caused by ongoing, occupational exposure to RCS dust of less than 10 microns. RCS dust particles become trapped in lung tissue, causing inflammation and scarring and reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. Symptoms of silicosis can include progressive shortness of breath, cough and fatigue.
Silicosis can result from ongoing exposure to RCS dust over many years, but very high short-term exposures can cause it to develop rapidly. It has three clinical forms: chronic, accelerated and acute. These forms are largely dependent on intensity of exposure and total cumulative exposure.
Silicosis and other diseases associated with exposure to RCS dust are 100% preventable with the correct safety measures in place. This Good Practice Guide brings you information about such safety measures.
Fabrication workshop Owners (Employers)
EMPLOYERS IN WORKSHOPS WHERE CAESARSTONE SURFACES ARE FABRICATED SHOULD:
- be familiar with all the health and safety regulations and standards related to their work and fully comply with them
- periodically assess the health and safety risks related to their business and take the appropriate safety measures
- educate their employees regarding the risks and the safety measures related, among others, to RCS dust, including by using this Good Practice Guide and all other safety-related information produced by state-specific regulatory bodies or Caesarstone
- ensure that their workers always use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in order to protect themselves from the dangers of exposure to RCS dust
- ensure that levels of RCS dust are minimized as far as is reasonably practicable, and in any event below Workplace Exposure Standards (WES)
Distributors & Stone Suppliers
CAESARSTONE DISTRIBUTORS AND STONE SUPPLIERS ARE REQUIRED TO:
- provide information to their customers about the safety measures required for protection against the dangers of working with RCS dust, including this Good Practice Guide and all other safety-related information produced by Caesarstone or required by local law
- include occupational health and safety warnings and information about means of protection in all invoices and shipping documents
- comply with all the applicable laws and regulations regarding importing, selling and distributing slabs containing RCS dust in the countries where they operate
- follow Caesarstone’s instructions regarding protection against the dangers of working with RCS dust
Health & Safety Guidelines
Workplace Exposure Standard,
Action Level & Threshold Limit Values
The Workplace Exposure Standard (WES) is a safety limit of exposure set by each state and territory. Any exposure to limits above the WES to RCS dust is legally forbidden.
The Action Level (AL) is typically half the value of the WES and is the airborne level of RCS dust that initiates certain required activities such as RCS dust monitoring and medical surveillance.
You should consult with occupational health and safety experts regarding minimizing the exposure level in your workplace.
Working Safely with Crystalline silica
1. Airborne Dust Monitoring
Employers should determine the amount of RCS dust to which workers are exposed if it is, or is likely to be, at or above the AL, averaged over an 8-hour day.
The method of assessing the level of RCS dust in the workplace is by air sampling and analysis.
Work with occupational health and safety experts to establish air sampling strategies and to perform exposure assessments of RCS dust. Air sampling and analysis should be conducted in accordance with well-established sampling and analytical methodologies and at least according to the frequency required by your local regulations.
In order to ensure the safety of the entire working site, it is recommended also to monitor locations other than fabrication areas that are exposed to RCS dust, such as offices and storage areas.
Communicate the results to employees – their involvement is likely to encourage compliance with safety procedures.
HAZARDOUS DUST SIGNS
Areas with hazardous dust must be clearly marked with appropriate signage for example:
RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA MAY CAUSE SEVERE HEALTH DAMAGES.
WEAR RESPIRATORY PROTECTION IN THIS AREA AND FOLLOW SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS.
AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY
Keep complete records of all RCS dust sampling – in the future you may be required to show the steps you have taken to ensure that your workplace is safe.
2.1 Water-integrated Machinery & Tools
Dry cutting, grinding or polishing Caesarstone surfaces generates RCS dust. Properly designed water-integrated tools and machinery significantly reduce the level of RCS dust and should therefore be used for all cutting, grinding and shaping.
It is important to note that water-integrated rotating tools generate RCS-contaminated water mist, which may be dispersed and inhaled. For this reason, RPE may be necessary even when using water-integrated tools.
CNC machines such as waterjet cutters and automated sawing machines are faster, safer and more accurate than manual saws. The safety doors that prevent dust dispersal and distance the operator from the dust source must always be used.
Manual saws are less accurate and slower than CNCs. Despite the application of water, worker exposure to RCS dust is generally higher than with computerized systems (CNCs) as they do not have safety doors and the operator must stand closer to the dust source to operate the machinery.
When working with manual tools, the operator’s breathing zone is very close to the dust source, where high levels of RCS dust are generated. It is therefore extremely important to implement the following safety procedures:
- Always use water-integrated manual tools. If it is not possible to use water-integrated tools at the installation site, follow the instructions in Section 2.3, Installation Safety.
- Prevent dispersal of RCS-contaminated water mist from water-integrated tools by using guards, plastic flaps or brush guards.
- Set the air and water pressure to achieve the optimal amount of water on the slab to prevent dispersal of dry RCS dust or RCS-contaminated water mist.
- Use an appropriately fit-tested half face respirator when working with manual tools.
2.2 Ventilation Systems
Proper ventilation is key to providing a safe and healthy workspace for yourself and your employees.
GENERAL WORKSPACE VENTILATION
General workspace ventilation systems introduce fresh air and dilute airborne contaminants in the workplace.
Ventilation systems should provide at least six exchanges of air per hour.
Extracted air should be released at a safe distance from doors and windows according to your local regulations and standards.
In order to avoid contamination of outside areas and optimise the effects of ventilation in your workplace, consult with experts to determine the best locations for workstations.
LOCAL EXHAUST VENTILATION
Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) is an engineering system that captures RCS dust at the source and transports it away from the worker’s breathing zone. This prevents workers from inhaling RCS and reduces contamination of the general workplace air.
LEV is connected to a dust extraction unit such as a bag filter/cyclone.
LEV should be installed and operated at all work stations.
The LEV suction hood should be facing up so that dust flows down and away from the worker's mouth and nose.
Workers should not stand between the dust source and the LEV in order to avoid exposure to the flow of RCS dust as it is being extracted.
MANUAL TOOLS DUST COLLECTION
When the use of portable tools is required, use a dedicated dust collection attachment connected to the manual tool and a high-efficiency particulate "H" Class vacuum. This is particularly important as the operator’s breathing zone needs to be protected at all times.
Do not use standing fans as they may disperse settled or airborne dust to clean areas or outside the work area.
ISOLATING WORKERS FROM DUST GENERATING PROCESSES
Workers should keep a distance from the work process whenever possible in order to reduce exposure to RCS dust
Safe distancesshould be maintained between workers using powered hand tools and other workers at the workplace in order to prevent exposure to RCS dust created by other workers.
Provide physical barriers between different workers and workstations in order to prevent RCS-contaminated water mist moving into other work areas or towards other workers.
Ensure that settled RCS dust cannot be dispersed to clean areas or outside the work area.
For recommended cleaning methods of settled RCS dust dust see Section 4.1, Cleaning & Dust Disposal.
Work only with professional ventilation suppliers who employ qualified engineers for project execution.
A combination of water-integrated tools and ventilation is more effective
at reducing RCS dust than either of these methods on its own.
2.3 Installation Safety
Safety rules must be followed, and PPE used when installing surfaces in order to protect both the installer and anyone else in the area.
FABRICATE IN THE WORKSHOP
If no cutting, grinding, sanding or polishing of the benchtop is performed during installation, no RCS dust should be released. Therefore, as far as possible, perform all fabrication work in the workshop in order to avoid creation of RCS dust at the installation site. If significant dust-producing modifications are required upon installation, it is recommended to return the slabs to the workshop to perform these processes.
To prevent excessive dispersion of RCS dust at the installation site, before performing any dust-producing work the local heating/air-conditioning system should be shut down and sealed off; and surfaces should be covered with protective plastic sheets.
If dust-producing modifications at the installation site are unavoidable, use water-integrated cutting or grinding tools and an integrated dust collector with an "H" Class vacuum cleaner. Wherever possible, perform such work outdoors.
As in every place where professional, technical work is carried out, no person other than the professional installer should be present near the working area during the performance of this work.
After completing an installation, thoroughly clean the work surface and remove all dust using wet methods and a an "H" Class vacuum cleaner. Remove dust in sealed sacks according to local regulations.
The removal of dust from vacuum cleaners must be performed in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations and disposal of dust must be as per local regulations.
When performing modifications at the installation site,
use an appropriately fit-tested half face respirator
3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE should be used to protect workers in all parts of the fabrication environment, installation sites and related work areas. PPE includes general Personal Protective Equipment and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE). All PPE provided to workers must meet regulatory and industry standards and be appropriate for the task.
Employers must provide their workers with PPE in workplaces where health and safety hazards exist and ensure that they use it as required.
Access to hazardous work areas should be restricted to authorised workers who are equipped with the necessary PPE. These areas should be clearly marked with appropriate signage to ensure that workers are aware of the hazards.
EQUIPMENT COMPLIANCE & MAINTENANCE
PPE should be used, checked, cleaned, maintained and stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions and regulation requirements.
Employees and outsourced workers should receive training on the fitting, selection, adaptation, use and maintenance of all PPE.
Keep records of all items of PPE used, of PPE training and of PPE maintenance checks – in the future you may need to demonstrate that you have complied with safety requirements.
3.1 General Personal Protective Equipment
The following equipment should be worn in fabrication environment and installation sites.
- Hair covering to contain long hair
- Safety helmet when handling and transporting
- Nonslip, steel-capped safety shoes
- Dust mask
- Safety glasses or other approved eye protection
- Earplugs when working in noisy areas
- Gloves for protection against chemicals or rough material
- In wet areas, aprons and steel-capped rubber boots in addition to the above
3.2 Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)
In hazardous areas where RCS dust is generated, RPE should be used to increase worker protection.
There are various types of RPE available for different materials and levels of exposure. An occupational health and safety professional should determine the appropriate RPE based on the RCS concentrations in your workplace and other professional considerations.
Please be aware that the use of RPE does not exempt the employer from keeping the level of RCS dust as low as is reasonably practicable and in any event to below the required WES by using water-integrated tools, LEV and other engineering controls.
Create and enforce policies for all workers to wear RPE in areas where hazardous dust exposure may occur.
TYPES OF RPE
Three types of RPE are most common: Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR), half face respirators and disposable dust masks. PAPR and half face dust masks provide higher protection than disposable dust masks.
The RPE manufacturer’s instructions generally specify for what level of RCS dust the mask is appropriate; how to fit the mask; and the permitted duration of use. In the absence of these instructions you should consult with an expert.
Below are several rules of thumb for when to use each type of RPE. However, you should still use them according to the manufacturer’s instructions, local regulations and after consultation with a health and safety expert, all of which should take precedence over the rules of thumb if there is any contradiction.
WHEN TO USE A HALF FACE RESPIRATOR:
- when fabricating with wet manual tools in the fabrication workshop
- when standing close to locations where RCS dust is created
- at the installation site if performing dust-producing modifications
WHEN TO USE A DISPOSABLE MASK:
- only in locations far from where RCS dust is created (workers and visitors), e.g.:
- when washing the floor and machinery with running water
- near CNC machines that are water-connected to exhaust ventilation systems
WHEN TO USE PAPR:
- if exposure levels are unknown
- if the RCS dust level is extreme
- the fabricator has facial hair
- where stipulated by regulatory codes
Ensure that your RPE complies with your local regulations.
REPLACING RPE OR FILTERS
Disposable dust mask
Masks marked with the letters NR (not reusable) are intended for single use only.
Masks marked with the letter R (reusable) are intended for more than single shift use, according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Ensure that your disposable dust mask contains documentation that it conforms to standard EN 149:2001.
Filters in half face respirators
As per manufacturer's instructions.
RPE filters are classified as P1, P2 and P3; or N95, N99 and N100 in order of increasing filtration efficiency:
|Protection from airborne particles
When using disposable masks use P3 or N95 filters;
when using half face respirators use P3 or N95 filters or higher (N99, N100).
Half face respirators should be fit tested on each worker before first use, and checked each time they are worn to ensure that they create a good seal and provide the required protection.
As facial hair can lessen the effectiveness of the seal, workers with facial hair should work with Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR).
When assessing the workers requirements to wear RPE consideration should be made to the individual’s ability to wear the RPE over a prolonged period. You should consult with an occupational health and safety professional to determine the local requirements for this evaluation.
It is particularly important to store RPE according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If RPE is left lying around in dirty areas, there is an increased risk of exposure to RCS dust on the inside of the facepiece, and parts deteriorating from exposure to dirt, solvents, vapours, oil and sunlight.
4.1 Cleaning & Dust Disposal
Correct cleaning methods reduce the spread of RCS dust and contribute to a safer working environment.
Create a regular, recurring schedule for cleaning all equipment and systems at least daily. Check that the work area is clean at the end of each shift.
Recommended methods of cleaning floors, walls and other surfaces with RCS dust are: low pressure wet hosing, wet mopping and "H" Class vacuum systems.
Low pressure wet hosing or wet mopping should be used to prevent settled dust from spreading.
Dry sludge should be cleaned by "H" Class vacuum cleaning systems only.
Under no circumstances should dust be swept up with a dry broom
or removed using compressed air
Clean wet or dry sludge immediately; never wait for the end of day cleanup. Prevent water pooling and drying on surfaces leaving dry dust deposits. Wet dust that is allowed to dry out can easily become airborne and inhaled.
WATER CONNECTION POINTS
Provide ample water connection points for wet cleaning techniques in order to make wet hosing accessible in all relevant areas of the workshop.
WALLS AND FLOORING
Where possible select wall tiles and flooring surfaces that are hermetically sealed and easy to clean.
WATER FILTRATION & DRAINAGE SYSTEMS
Clean and maintain all water filtration and drainage systems to ensure contaminated water is disposed of according to the EPA and council standards.
DISPOSAL OF DUST AND SLUDGE
Wet sludge must be kept inside sealed bags for disposal so that it does not dry out and become airborne.
Some states may have specific requirements for disposing of construction or trade waste, including waste containing RCS dust. Contact your state Department of Environmental Protection, or your regional office of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or your local waste management provider for more information.
4.2 Equipment & Housekeeping
Proper maintenance, housekeeping and recording is essential to proper implementation of the health and safety guidelines.
MAINTENANCE OF SYSTEMS & TOOLS
All ventilation, exhaust and other systems should be designed, installed and maintained in consultation with licenced professionals to ensure effectiveness.
All systems and tools should be kept in good working order and inspected and maintained regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, or at least once a week if no instructions exist.
Do not make changes to any working system or tools without the manufacturer’s approval.
Keep user instructions and diagrams in a dry and easily accessible place for ease of reference for workers.
Keep records of all inspections and maintenance checks for the period of time required by your local regulations; you may be required to present these to demonstrate compliance.
All electrical systems should be designed for ultimate safety in wet environments to prevent electric shocks.
Regular electrical inspection programs should be implemented and carried out on relevant equipment in the work environment by a qualified electrician.
4.3 Personal Hygiene
Personal hygiene is an important factor in health protection as is environmental hygiene. With good cleaning practices the workers contact with RCS can be reduced.
Provide bathroom facilities in the workplace with toilets, showers, sinks and individual lockers for storing fresh changes of clothing. Make two changing rooms available to all workers: one in which they change from home clothes into clean work clothes and store their home clothes during working hours; and another in which they change out of work clothes at the end of a working day before showering and changing back into home clothes.
DESIGNATED WORK CLOTHES
Workers should wear only designated work clothes, including footwear and socks. Workers should leave their work clothes and shoes in the workplace and never remove them from the workplace. Employers should provide explanations on the importance of separating work clothes from clean clothes.
Employers should launder all employees’ working clothes and provide them with clean working clothes each day.
DO NOT CLEAN CLOTHES WITH COMPRESSED AIR
Compressed air in the workshop must be used to provide power to tools and should not be used for purposes outside the manufacturer’s guideline. The use of compressed air for the purpose of cleaning dust of clothes is FORBIDDEN!
EAT AND DRINK IN DESIGNATED AREAS
Provide workers with designated areas that can be closed off from the fabrication area for food preparation and eating. This makes for a more pleasant as well as a safer eating environment. Permit eating, drinking and smoking only in designated areas that are not exposed to RCS dust. Workers should wash their hands and face, and change clothes before eating, drinking or smoking.
Smoking is hazardous to health and may increase health damage from RCS dust. Encourage your employees to stop smoking.
5. Other Procedures, Further Information & Disclaimers
Provide ongoing training to all workers at all levels, including outsourced workers, on safety issues that are specific to their workplace. The more workers are involved in and aware of the health and safety guidelines, the more likely they are to comply with them. Training should be conducted in the worker’s mother tongue if possible.
In the training sessions you should provide clear information about:
- health and safety guidelines for your workplace and installation sites, including the specific measures that have been employed to protect workers from exposure to RCS dust, such as engineering controls, safe work procedures, PPE and RPE
- your local WES and AL requirements
- your workplace air and health monitoring results
Health and safety training should be performed on a regular basis. Health and safety guidelines and regulatory requirements can vary over time and it is important to ensure that your workers are aware of any changes in regulations.
COMPULSORY TRAINING ATTENDANCE
Attendance at training sessions should be compulsory. Ensure that new workers receive training before commencing any work.
Keep records of workers’ attendance at training sessions, the dates of those training sessions, and the training material provided to workers. This will help you plan future training sessions and provide you with a record if you need to demonstrate in the future that you fulfilled your obligations to protect your employees.
Encourage employee feedback in order to improve future training sessions.
Assess workers’ knowledge in order to verify that they understand the training material.
5.2 Medical Surveillance
Medical surveillance is required for workers in our industry because there can be a significant risk to workers’ health if exposure to RCS dust is not controlled.
All workers must be provided with information about the purpose of medical surveillance.
Individuals with lung illnesses or lung disability should not work in an environment with potential exposure to RCS dust. Other illnesses may also prevent individuals from working in an environment with potential exposure to RCS dust. Employers should follow occupational health physicians’ instructions regarding such individuals.
MEDICAL SURVEILLANCE PROGRAMME
Implement medical surveillance corresponding to your local regulations for workers who are exposed to RCS dust. Consult with an occupational health and safety professional to establish your specific requirements.
Medical surveillance may include a physical examination, along with a medical and work history review, a chest x-ray, a pulmonary function test, and other tests that may be deemed medically necessary.
Medical surveillance should be performed:
- before a worker starts work to establish a baseline from which changes can be detected
- periodically according to your local regulations and in consultation with the doctor
- recommended also when the worker leaves your employment
Maintain workers’ medical surveillance records in accordance with applicable laws and local regulations – in the future you may be required to show that you have complied with regulatory requirements.
Workers’ rights to privacy must be upheld in all matters relating to confidential medical information, according to your local regulations.
5.3 Written Silica Control Plan
Some states require that employers who operate a working environment with exposure to RCS dust develop and implement a Written Silica Control Plan.
A Written Silica Control Plan describes workplace exposures and ways to reduce those exposures, such as engineering controls, work practices, housekeeping methods, and restricting access to areas where exposures can occur.
We recommend that you consult with occupational safety and health professionals or other appropriate experts in order to correctly implement all aspects of such a plan.
6. Further Information
The links below are sources of information that will help you increase your knowledge about protection from the health risks of exposure to RCS dust. We hope you find them useful.
Safe Work NSW MOVIE - WORKING SAFELY WITH CRYSTALLINE SILICA
The European Network for Silica (NEPSI)
This Good Practice Guide includes health and safety information and recommendations regarding RCS dust and is brought as a service to you by Caesarstone. Notwithstanding our efforts to bring you the most professional and updated information, the information in this Guide cannot not serve as or replace medical, health, safety, legal or any other professional advice.
Stonemasons are fully responsible for the health and safety of their workers, including with respect to the safety risks related to RCS dust. Such responsibility includes the obligation to know the applicable safety regulations and standards and to fully comply with them.
It is important to note that the information provided in this Guide is only a general summary of the main recommended safety measures regarding RCS dust. This Guide does not replace and/or specify all safety measures applicable to your business and included in your local laws, regulations and standards, all of which you should know and strictly follow. You should not regard the information in this Guide as an interpretation of any applicable law, regulation or standard.
To protect the health and safety of all workers exposed to RCS dust, it is always necessary to consult with a local occupational health and safety advisor about the precise safety measures you should implement in your working environment.
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The content included in this website is not the conclusive data available on the professional and health and safety issues that you should be familiar with and implement at your organization. Caesarstone does not make any warranty regarding the quality of the safety measures presented in this website or their sufficiency. Stonemason are fully responsible for the health and safety of their workers. Nothing included in this website may be considered as any kind of professional, medical, health, safety or legal advice; nor shall be regarded as an interpretation of any applicable law, regulation or standard; nor does it replace consultation with a health and safety professionals.