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November 18, 2013

Safety Tip: Protecting Workers from Abrasive Blasting Hazards

Abrasive blasting operations can create a variety of hazards, including high levels of dust and noise. Abrasive materials and the surfaces being blasted may contain toxic materials (e.g., lead paint, silica) that are hazardous to workers. A new OSHA fact sheet gives information on abrasive blasting materials, health hazards and worker protection. Here are some tips from OSHA:

Before beginning work, identify hazards and work to eliminate them. Train abrasive blasters and support personnel on blasting health and safety hazards, how to use controls, personal hygiene practices, safe work practices and the use of PPE and respirators.

Engineering Controls
  • Use a less-toxic abrasive material (see below)
  • Use abrasives that can be delivered with water (slurry) to reduce dust
  • Use barriers and curtain walls to isolate the blasting operation from other workers
  • Use blast rooms or blast cabinets for smaller operations
  • Use restricted areas for non-enclosed blasting operations
  • Keep coworkers away from the blaster
  • Use exhaust ventilation systems in containment structures to capture dust

Administrative Controls
  • Perform routine cleanup using wet methods or HEPA filtered vacuuming to minimize accumulation of toxic dust
  • Do not use compressed air to clean as this will create dust in the air
  • Clean and decontaminate tarps and other equipment
  • Schedule blasting when the least number of workers are present
  • Avoid blasting in windy conditions to prevent spreading hazardous materials

Personal Hygiene
  • Prohibit eating, drinking, or using tobacco products in blasting areas
  • Provide wash stations so workers can wash hands and face routinely and before eating, drinking, or smoking
  • Vacuum or remove contaminated work clothes before eating, drinking or smoking
  • Provide accommodations for end-of-shift showers and change areas with separate storage facilities for street clothes, protective clothing and equipment
  • Keep contaminated clothing and equipment out of the clean change area

Personal Protective Equipment
  • Use only respirators approved by NIOSH to provide protection from dusts produced during abrasive-blasting operations, such as Type CE airline respirator with positive pressure blasting helmet
  • Support personnel involved in cleanup and other related activities may also need respiratory protection
  • Workers should always wear:
    • Hearing protection
    • Eye and face protection
    • Helmet
    • Leather gloves that protect full forearm
    • Aprons or coveralls
    • Safety shoes or boots

Alternative, less toxic blasting materials include:
  • Dry ice
  • Plastic bead media
  • Sponge
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
  • Ground walnut shells, ground corn cob and other biodegradable materials
  • High pressure water

Learn more:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tip on not permitting eating or drinking around the blasting areas! I hadn't thought about how that could affect safety when handling the machine. For one thing, you could compare it to driving while eating, which means you are distracted from the task at hand.