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Respirable Crystalline Silica - Safety and Health Alert

Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible, and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica.

Best Practices

What can Metal/Nonmetal and Coal Mine Operators do to prevent silicosis?

1.    Perform air monitoring of worksites.  Monitoring will determine:

  • proper respiratory protection needed
  • effectiveness of engineering controls
  • need for additional work practices to reduce dust levels; and

2.    Install and maintain engineering controls to reduce the amount of silica in the air. Examples of controls include:

  • exhaust ventilation
  • increase face ventilation: both velocity and quantity
  • dry dust collection systems
  • water sprays
  • wet drilling or suppression
  • supply vacuums with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters; andA comprehensive source of dust controls and practices can be found at:
  • enclosed cabs

3.    Administrative controls are the second line of defense for minimizing silica exposures. These controls include:

  • practice preventative maintenance:  clean and maintain equipment
  • practice good housekeeping: don’t dry sweep to clean up
  • use wet cleaning methods, or vacuums with HEPA filters to remove dust from floors and surfaces; and
  • train miners about engineering controls and work practices that reduce dust, and the importance of maintenance and good housekeeping

4.    Provide miners with appropriately selected, properly fitted, and NIOSH approved respirators, as engineering controls are installed or updated.

  • make sure respirators are kept clean and properly maintained and that miners are trained in their use