Silica Dust Collection

Reducing the Risk of Silica Dust Exposure

Silica is one of the most common substances found on the planet, and, accordingly, is used in countless industrial applications. It is the main ingredient in glass and is a major component of ceramic tile, cement, bricks and asphalt. It is widely used in metallurgy, agriculture and water filtration. It also appears in high-tech applications, such as fiber optics, and as a filler for paints, coatings, rubbers and plastics.

The industrial use of silica has been a hot topic, lately, due to a rule change from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in early 2016. As you will see in details below, OSHA has toughened its standards for exposure to silica dust. This rule change could affect as many as 2.3 million workers in approximately 676,000 workplaces. Affected industries include (but are not limited to):

  • Glass and tile manufacturing
  • Brick, concrete or pottery manufacturing
  • Construction (especially applications that involve cutting, grinding or drilling rock, concrete, masonry or tile)
  • Foundries, metalcasting facilities and diecasters
  • Mining operations
  • Shipyard and maritime workers
  • Any industry using abrasive sandblasting
  • Other industries using sand in their processes, such as hydraulic fracturing


Exposure Risks for Silica Dust

Silica dust is inhaled into the lungs, where it is implicated in lung cancer as well as chronic bronchitis and other respiratory diseases. As the substance makes its way from the lungs through the body, silica can also damage other bodily systems, most notably the kidneys.

Exposure can also lead to a serious disease caused by damage to the lining of the lung sacs. Acute silicosis, caused by severe exposure, can cause the lungs to become inflamed and fill with fluid, creating a medical emergency. Chronic silicosis develops with even low-level exposure over time, reducing lung capacity until sufferers need oxygen to survive.

Because of the severity of silica dangers, manufacturers can't settle for filtering out 80% or so of the dust, as they might when working with wood dust or other non-carcinogenic materials. With silica, a manufacturer needs to aim for removing 99.9% of the dust.


Regulations for Silica Dust

OSHA is the primary agency tasked with regulating silica dust. The administration recently made waves when it announced it was cutting permissible exposure levels (PELs) by half. You can find the final ruling here, but these are the basic facts: the PELs for crystalline silica have been lowered to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (μ/cu.m) as an 8-hour time-weighted average, down from the currently allowable 100 μ/cu.m TWA. The new rule takes effect June 23, 2016, and employers have until June 2018 to comply. The rule also outlines requirements for assessing and monitoring exposure, protecting employees, mitigation, record keeping and employee communication.

OSHA has made this rule change because scientific evidence shows that the previous exposure limits were not keeping workers safe. OSHA estimates that the new rule could prevent 600 deaths and 900 new cases of silicosis each year.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommends a lower exposure limit for silica: 25 micrograms per cubic meter. This lower limit is not a surprise, since ACGIH guidelines are usually more strict than OSHA standards. Many leading manufacturers, however, strive to meet ACGIH guidelines.

As with other OSHA regulations, failure to comply can bring serious fines. The administration can assess fines up to hundreds of thousands of dollars every time an offender is cited.

Solutions for Silica Dust

A variety of equipment exists to eliminate silica dust. These dust collectors will help businesses comply with OSHA's more stringent rules issued in 2016. Whether a business needs a source capture solution, an ambient capture one, or a combination of the two, RoboVent offers a wide variety of dust collectors and engineering services to meet any challenge.


Traditional Configuration

The traditional configuration maximizes performance with ductwork sized for optimal airflow for your specific applications.


VentMapping® Engineering

VentMapping is a systematic engineering and design service. Our comprehensive approach helps us find the safest, most effective and most efficient way to meet your goals.

RoboVent Maintenance Program, Clean Air and Industrial Air Filtration Solutions

ClientCare Maintenance Program

ClientCare lets you leverage RoboVent's expertise so you can reduce the burden on your maintenance staff and stay focused on your core business.


Fusion™ Series

A dust collector on the cutting edge of air filtration. The Fusion Series delivers exceptional performance and cost savings in a powerful, simple package.


Endurex RMO Cartridge Filters, Dust & Fume Air Filters

Endurex RMO Cartridge Filters

RoboVent's premium filter engineered to provide the best filtration protection for your plant and employees. A widened pleat and proprietary filter media help deliver top performance.