To help employers and their workers minimize exposure to silica, the National Association of Home Builders has developed a “Silica Hazards in Home Building” safety card
To help employers and their workers minimize exposure to silica, the National Association of Home Builders has developed a Silica Hazards in Home Building safety card. Available in English and Spanish, it provides a general overview of silicosis, its symptoms, recommendations for reducing or eliminating exposure, and additional silica-related resources.
More than 1 million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica, and each year more than 250 American workers die with silicosis, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Silicosis is lung damage caused by inhaling dust containing crystalline silica, which is found in concrete, masonry, rock, ceramic tile and drywall joint compound. Lung damage can result when workers breathe in the fine dust that is suspended in the air when these materials are cut, sanded or ground.
Chronic silicosis is the most common form of the disease, and usually occurs after 10 or more years of exposure. Silica dust in the lungs can hamper the body’s ability to fight off infections, and workers are more vulnerable to certain illnesses such as tuberculosis. Affected workers may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: shortness of breath following physical exertion, severe cough, fatigue, loss of appetite, chest pains or fever.
While there is no cure for silicosis, NAHB notes, the condition is 100 percent preventable if employers and workers take appropriate safety precautions and reduce or eliminate exposure.
The card and companion reference, the first in an NAHB series aimed at emerging safety and health topics, can be downloaded from http://www.nahb.org/category.aspx?sectionID=1357.