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Silica dust: an insidious hazard

AGF Steel and AGF Du-For employees find themselves on all kinds of construction sites where they are exposed to various hazards that must be controlled. One in particular is a silent threat that can result in serious illness and even death: exposure to silica dust when drilling into concrete structures.

Silicosis is an irreversible lung disease that causes progressive problems ranging from shortness of breath to respiratory failure, which can have fatal consequences. The main complications associated with silicosis arelung cancer, tuberculosis and pulmonary and cardiac problems.  As a general rule, symptoms such as abnormal shortness of breath appear after 10 or even 20 years of exposure to crystalline silica.

To control this hazard and avoid exposing our workers to silica dust, we have taken the following preventive measures:

• We have developed a work procedure in the prevention program;
• Our workers are informed of these procedures through safety analyses that our superintendents and foremen conduct every morning before work begins.
• For jobs that produce silica dust, there must be a vacuum system at the source.
• Respirators must be worn for the duration of any operation involving silica dust.
• Eye protection, either goggles or a face shield, must be worn, depending on the worksite.
• Once work has been completed, equipment that was exposed to silica dust must be cleaned.

In conclusion, it is recommended to restrict the work area to avoid contaminating other workers on the worksite.

Photo: On the CHUM construction site, François Beaulieu (superintendent, AGF Steel) makes sure workers use preventive measures when drilling in concrete.