4.16 – Silica

Respirable Silica Exposure Control Plan (ECP)

Control methods for chipping and jackhammering of refractory insulations and/or other suspect respirable silica containing materials

Chipping and jackhammering various refractory insulations (or other suspect respirable silica containing materials) without adequate dust controls may generate high levels of silica-containing dust. Breathing in this fine dust can cause a serious lung disease called silicosis, which is characterized by scarring and thickening of the lungs and can result in death.

Project Superintendent
Safety Coordinator
Worksite information

Health hazards from respirable silica exposure

  • Long-term exposure to airborne crystalline or ‘respirable’ silica (e.g., quartz) can cause a disabling, sometimes fatal lung disease called silicosis.
  • When the dust is inhaled deep into the lungs, microscopic particles of silica can cause scar tissue to form in the lung tissue, which restricts the lungs’ ability to extract oxygen from the air. This damage is permanent, but symptoms of the disease may not appear for many years.
  • The disease initially causes fatigue and shortness of breath. If exposure continues, it can lead to chest pain, heart problems (difficulty breathing can strain the heart), and respiratory failure.
  • Exposure to crystalline silica has also been liked to other diseases, including bronchitis, tuberculosis and lung cancer.
Purpose and responsibilities
  • Griffin Properties recognizes we have a duty to protect our workers from silica exposure during chipping and jackhammering of various refractory insulations, and/or other suspect respirable silica containing materials.  GRIFFIN assumes that work tasks involving the chipping and jackhammering of silica-containing refractory and other similar insulating materials may generate airborne silica levels in excess of safe levels. Effective controls are available to protect workers from harmful exposure.
  • Workers must not be exposed to an airborne concentration of silica that exceeds its occupational exposure limit.
  • We know that a combination of control measures will be required to achieve this objective. We commit to being diligent in our efforts to select the most effective control technologies available, and to ensure that the best practices, as described in this exposure control plan (ECP), are followed at our worksites.
  • The work procedures we establish for chipping and jackhammering of silica-containing refractory and other similar insulating materials will protect not only our workers but also any other workers on-site who are not involved in these operations.
Griffin Properties is responsible for the following
  • Ensure that the materials (i.e., tools, equipment, and personal protective equipment [PPE]) and other resources (i.e., worker training) required to fully implement and maintain this ECP are readily available where and when they are required.
  • Ensure that all required tools, equipment, and PPE are readily available and used as required by the ECP.
  • Ensure that supervisors and workers are educated and trained to an acceptable level of competency.
  • Maintain records of training, fit-test results, crew talks, and inspections (for equipment, PPE, and work methods and practices).
  • Conduct a periodic review of the effectiveness of the ECP. This includes a review of available dust control technologies to ensure these are selected and used when practical.
  • Coordinate the work with the prime contractor and other employers on site who may be affected to ensure a safe work environment.
Supervisors are responsible for the following
  • Provide adequate instruction to workers on the hazards associated with the chipping and jackhammering of silica-containing refractory and other similar insulating materials.
  • Select and implement the appropriate control measures.
  • Ensure that workers using respirators have been properly fit-tested and that the results are recorded.
  • Provide protective clothing to workers who may be exposed to Silica.
  • Direct the work in a manner that ensures the risk to workers and others is minimized and adequately controlled. This includes ensuring that workers use appropriate engineering controls, wear and maintain the necessary PPE.
Workers are responsible for the following
  • Use and maintain the assigned protective equipment in an effective and safe manner.
  • Wear the required protective clothing as directed by Supervision in accordance to the ECP.
  • Follow established work procedures as directed by the supervisor.
  • Report any unsafe conditions or acts to the supervisor.
  • Report any exposure incidents or any signs or symptoms of silica illness.
Risk identification and assessment
  • Refractory, and other similar insulating materials may contain a high percentage of silica.
  • Chipping and jackhammering these materials without the use of proper dust controls and PPE can expose workers to levels of airborne respirable crystalline silica that are above the exposure limit listed in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.
  • Work locations where workers or other persons are exposed to the hazards of silica will be identified with signs, placards, or barrier tape.
Exposure limit
  • The occupational exposure limit (OEL) for respirable crystalline silica (including quartz) is 0.025 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3).
  • Because crystalline silica is linked to lung cancer, workplace exposures must be reduced to levels that are As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) below the OEL.
Silica dust control

Griffin Properties will select silica dust controls based on the following hierarchy:

  1. Elimination and Substitution
  2. Engineering
  3. Administrative controls
  4. Personal protective equipment (PPE)

We recognize the importance of planning the work in order to minimize the amount of silica dust generated.

  • Use of respirators as a primary control is not acceptable when other methods are available and practical.
  • Respirators will be used in conjunction with other controls such as wetting down or vacuuming with HEPA filtration to reduce worker exposure to silica, unless these other controls introduce more significant hazards, are not practical, or air monitoring information suggests otherwise.
  • Wetting down, vacuuming with HEPA filtration or the use of local exhaust ventilation (LEV) are the preferred engineering methods and will be used when practicable.
  • Dry work will be isolated from other work areas. Effective LEV will be used in order to control the dust. A HEPA vacuum and/or wetting down methods will be used for cleanup and decontamination.
  • Air discharged from a LEV system will not be recirculated into the work area.
Acceptable control methods for chipping or jackhammering refractory insulation, or other similar suspect respirable silica containing materials
  • The work methods in the following table are acceptable, provided that the respirator selection is adhered to.
  • The following control options will be used to eliminate or reduce the risk to workers from the hazards of silica dust exposure, unless air monitoring information suggests otherwise:
TaskControl methods PPE Comments
Chipping and jackhammering Walls, floors and ceilings– Barriers must be established to restrict access to these work areas. Enclosure systems must be constructed when controls are not effective at reducing visible airborne dust.
– Local exhaust ventilation, LEV (see comment) when practical
– Wet methods can be used if effective and practical for floor surfaces
– Half-face or full-face air purifying respirator, or powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) with P100 series HEPA filters, depending on the effectiveness of the controls
– Washable work coveralls, or disposable coveralls should be worn. Waterproof PPE (and clothing) required when wetting methods are used
– Adequate eye protection must be used when using a half-face respirator.
– Hearing protection must be worn when using powered equipment
– LEV could include a negative air unit or HEPA vacuum positioned near the working surface. These controls may be practical when chip hammering walls or other vertical surfaces or locations where water cannot be used.
– Wet methods could include a portable airless sprayer, air mister, or hose sprayer. Slurry should be cleaned up when the work is completed to avoid secondary dust exposure hazard.
– Caution – water may produce electrocution and slipping hazards.
Safe work planning
  • Select one or more of the methods described in the table above.
  • Establish a barrier around the work zone to restrict access by unprotected workers.
  • Inspect all dust control equipment and tools to make sure they are in good working order.
  • Use and maintain all tools as specified by the manufacturer.
  • When employing Sub-Contractors, provide the contractor with a copy of the silica exposure control plan and safe work procedures.
  • Ensure that workers inspect their respirators before start-up.
  • Monitor dust release from equipment during use. When tools and equipment are working properly, very little dust should be visible in the air. Stop work if excessive dust is observed.
  • When using a LEV system to capture or remove dust, a “Failure Warning System” must be used to alert workers to a potential failure of the LEV. Methods used could include using a Standby Person, attaching a light to the power source, or other appropriate measures as required by the type of work and work environment. 
Respiratory protective equipment
  • Each worker will be fit-tested if a respirator is required.
  • Griffin Properties requires that if at all practicable, Full-Face P100 respirators will be used as the minimum protection for workers exposed to silica dust.  Half Face Respirators are also an acceptable form of respiratory protection with P100 filters.
  • When the worker notices a notable resistance to breathing, the respirator filters must be replaced.
  • Respirators will be used, cleaned, and stored in accordance with Griffin Properties respiratory protection program.
Other personal protective equipment and hygiene
  • Workers will wear approved safety glasses and hearing protection when chipping or jackhammering refractory insulation to remove it.  This equipment will not interfere with the fit of the worker’s respirator.
  • Workers will wear washable work coveralls that do not retain dust. These coveralls will be laundered and changed regularly, and workers will not wear them outside the work area.  Workers may also wear disposable coveralls if these are available.  These will be disposed of the same way as other silica contaminated waste materials – refer to section below on Housekeeping procedures.
Housekeeping procedures
  • Dry sweeping and the use of compressed air are prohibitedfor removing dust and debris containing silica. Work areas and equipment covered by dust will be cleaned at the end of every shift using a HEPA filter vacuum.
  • Wet cleanup may also be used to remove dust.
  • Waste material will be placed in a dumpster and will be removed at least weekly. The location and method used to store waste will not allow silica-containing dust to re-enter the workplace.
  • Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that work areas are free from dust at the end of each shift.
Worker training for silica dust exposure
  • Training will be performed by Griffin Properties Supervision or another appropriate training provider.
  • Records of attendance, dates of training, and training material will be documented and retained at the job site.
  • Additional training or reference material on silica dust exposure will be made available to employees upon request.
Training topics
  • Health hazards of silica dust exposure (including signs and symptoms of silicosis)
  • Operations and materials that can produce silica dust exposures
  • Engineering controls and safe work practices used to protect workers
  • The importance of proper equipment control and maintenance
  • Housekeeping procedures
  • Proper use of respirators and the respirator program
  • Personal hygiene procedures to reduce exposures
  • How smoking increases the risk of developing silicosis and other lung damage
  • The details of the exposure control program for silica dust
Health Monitoring
  • Workers who are regularly exposed to silica dust will be advised to receive regular medical examinations from their family physicians. These examinations may include chest x-rays.
  • Workers will be advised to report any symptoms of silica exposure to the employer and WorkSafeBC, for tracking and investigation.
Annual review

This ECP will be reviewed annually and updated as necessary by Griffin Properties, in consultation with the workplace health and safety committee or the worker health and safety representative as applicable.