What is silicosis?
Silicosis is a disease of the lungs caused primarily by the breathing of dust containing crystalline silica particles. This dust can cause fibrosis or scar tissue formations in the lungs that reduce the lung’s ability to work to extract oxygen from the air. There is no cure for this disease, thus, prevention is the only answer.
Why is it deadly?
You can be in danger even if you don’t see the dust. When you breathe dust that contains silica, the tiny particles may damage your lungs. Silicosis can form in your lungs in as little as a few weeks of very high dust exposure. Even breathing small amounts over time can cause disease years later. By the time it gets hard to breathe, you are already sick and there is no cure for silicosis. Silica dust may also cause lung cancer or increase your chance of getting tuberculosis – and it has been linked to COPD and other illnesses.”
– HD Supply Safety Updates Booklet, 2018, p. 33.
How can you protect yourself?
The good news is that silicosis is preventable! When wall chasing ensure you use a fully compliant contractor who knows the code and can confidently discuss what is required to keep operators safe. When chasing in-house, you should ensure you are either using water to the blade or a dry vacuum system to help reduce silica exposure. For all conventional wet and dry cutting methods, respirators should always be worn for operator protection as data* shows Australian Standards are quickly exceeded in wall chasing applications.
* Data taken from: Report: Hazards of Quik-Cut Chasing Saw: with Main Focus, the Assessment and Control of Carbon Monoxide Exposure..by David Torr, 2003, p. 43