Silica dust isn’t a new worksite hazard, but growth in the use of sand in wellsite activities prompted an initiative by Energy Safety Canada to update its Chemical Hazards Guideline to include a new Silica Exposure Control Plan (ECP) with accompanying tools and resources. Many upstream worksites are already successfully using a variety of engineering control strategies. But the goal is to increase access and use of those and other controls so it becomes normal practice.
Many dusts contain crystalline silica, a mineral that makes up nearly all of what is called sand and rock. It’s in masonry, tiles, granite, brick, concrete, grout, mortar, paint and asphalt. It’s also in abrasives used in blasting, the dust on roads and the sand used in oilfield operations. When dormant, silica is harmless – but when disturbed, airborne and inhaled it can become a formidable health hazard.
Prolonged or intense inhalation thickens the lining of the lungs causing them to become an opaque mass and lose the ability to expand and contract – making it as if you were breathing through a straw. The potential outcome is silicosis – a disabling, sometimes fatal lung disease. Silica exposure has also been linked to bronchitis, tuberculosis and lung cancer.
Information, tools and resource designed to proactively manage a variety of silica exposure risks:
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