Sandblasting, or “abrasive blasting,” is the process of directing tiny abrasive particles with compressed air or water to create a high-velocity stream that smooths surfaces, removes jagged edges or burrs, applies texture to a material or prepares a surface for coating. Due to the safety risks involved, this process should always be performed in a controlled environment by trained professionals. In addition, employers are responsible for providing these workers with the necessary safety equipment.
Keeping sandblasting safe involves protecting workers from the immediate hazards of the high-intensity blasting process and the residual toxins released during sandblasting sessions. OSHA requires blasting facilities to follow certain safety protocols to keep workers safe during and after the sandblasting process, and you can also provide your personnel with additional sandblasting safety tips suited to your specific equipment and processes.
GUIDELINES AND SAFETY TIPS FOR BLASTING PROCESSE
Sandblasting can be hazardous both for those performing it and those nearby. To ensure that workers can perform abrasive blasting tasks safely, employers should take the following safety measures:
1. SECURE THE ENVIRONMENT
Eliminate tripping and falling hazards. It’s crucial that you keep the blasting area free of unnecessary items and substances that could lead to slipping, tripping and falling.
Prohibit activity that could endanger workers. Blasting particles pose serious respiratory and other health hazards, so no one should be eating, drinking or smoking around the blasting areas.
Ensure a properly functioning blasting area. Verify that all ventilation, air compressors, power supplies and wash stations are fully functional.
2. CHECK THE BLASTING EQUIPMENT
Look for cracks and other damage. Make sure all blasting stations are damage-free and won’t leak toxins into the air.
Check the blast hose. Ensure that there are no leaks or cracks in the blast hose.
Use less toxic abrasives. You can improve safety by using materials lower on the toxicity spectrum when possible, such as garnet sand, non-toxic.
Use proper containment practices. Keep the blasting equipment in proper containment structures, and keep any non-enclosed blasting areas restricted.
Test breathing filters and carbon monoxide monitors. These items must be checked on a daily basis to confirm that the area will be properly ventilated, thus lessening the overall toxicity of the blasting environment.
3. ENSURE PROTECTIVE GEAR IS AVAILABLE
Give your blasting workers the proper protective garments. Sandblasting safety measures require that workers wear protective helmets, clothing, gloves, safety footwear, earplugs, protective eyewear and other OSHA-recommended equipment.
Provide workers with proper respiratory equipment. Respiratory protection is absolutely critical for sandblasting processes. Anyone using the blaster must be wearing an abrasive blasting respirator that covers that person’s head, face, neck and shoulders. Moreover, the respirators need to be NIOSH-certified. Workers involved in the cleanup process may also need respiratory equipment.
4. USE PROPER CLEANUP PROCEDURES
Clean the area with water. Post-sandblasting cleanup processes must involve water-based methods or HEPA-filtered vacuuming systems.
Avoid using concentrated air cleaning methods. Using compressed air as a cleaning agent will only disperse more dust into the environment.