top of page

Minimizing Exposure to Silica Dust

What is Concrete Dust

Workers in the construction industry may breathe dust that contains crystalline silica a mineral found in sand, granite, sandstone, concrete, brick, and mortar. During cutting, grinding, or the drilling process, the mineral is broken into fine dust which is referred to as silica dust. Repeated exposure to concrete dust for long periods of time is harmful to workers’ health.

Health Effects

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) breathing dust that contains crystalline silica can lead to silicosis, a deadly lung disease. Nor is silicosis the only danger: studies link exposure to airborne crystalline silica to COPD, tuberculosis, and lung cancer.

Tasks the Create the Most Dust

Construction tasks that create the most dust include the cutting, sawing or breaking of concrete. As well as dry sweeping the dust left behind while performing the former mentioned tasks.

Best Application to Control Dust

The Massachusetts Lowell Department of Work Environment partnered with contractors in a study and found two applications are best to control dust—water and vacuum.

The Suppression Process

  • Water Dust Suppression—According to OSHA dust control methods, cutting, sawing and concrete breaking tools must be equipped with an integrated water delivery system. Water may be supplied from a portable pressurized tank or a hose. The Massachusetts Lowell Department of Work Environment study found that water applied to the blades of concrete cutting saws, drills and jackhammers suppressed dust by more than 80%.

  • Vacuuming Slurry—Using water to suppress crystalline silica dust creates a slurry when water mixes with the dust. The slurry must be wet vacuumed, pumped into barrels and properly disposed under environmental guidelines.

  • Vacuum Dust Suppression—If use of water suppression methods is not available, sweeping the dust caused by cutting, drilling or breaking should not take place. Instead, and only as a last resort, under OSHA's dust suppression regulations the silica dust must be vacuumed. Standard dust collection vacuums are required to have a 99.00% filtration efficiency and HEPA vacuums are required to have a 99.97% filtration efficiency.

Quality Services

If you are looking for concrete sawing, cutting or drilling services make sure to ask the following questions of the providers you are considering:

  • How long have you been in business?

  • What is the brand of equipment you are using?

  • What is the training process for your operators?

  • What safety precautions will you take to prevent damage to adjacent areas?

  • What safety precautions do you take to minimize crystalline silica dust?

  • What precautions will you take to avoid operator injury?

  • Are you OSHA certified?

  • Do you have references?

Learn more about Diamond Concrete Sawing

Grand Rapids | Kalamazoo | Lansing


bottom of page