Abrasive Blasting

Abrasive Blasting

Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What is abrasive blasting?

Abrasive blasting is the forcible application of an abrasive to a surface by pneumatic pressure, hydraulic pressure, or centrifugal force. Commonly known as sandblasting due to the use of sand as the abrasive.

What is an abrasive?

An abrasive is a solid substance used in an abrasive blasting operation to change the appearance of the surface on which the blasting operation is performed. Abrasives are also referred to as blast agents.

What are the hazards associated with abrasive blasting?

The hazards associated with abrasive blasting can impact the health of workers performing abrasive blasting and workers in close proximity to an abrasive blasting operation. Abrasive blasting produces respirable size particles when the blasting abrasive impacts the surface of the substrate on which abrasive blasting is done. When the blasting abrasive or the substrate on which blasting is done contains silica, exposure to respirable crystalline silica can occur. In the absence of appropriate engineering controls (e.g., exhaust ventilation) and/or appropriate respiratory protection, continuous exposure can lead to the development of silicosis in exposed workers.

Abrasive blasting can also expose workers to toxic metals such as lead through inhalation when abrasive blasting is performed on substrates that contain toxic metals or are coated with substances that contain a toxic metal, such as lead-based paint.  

Exposure to excessive noise also occurs during abrasive blasting operations. This, along with the inhalation hazards discussed, becomes magnified when abrasive blasting occurs in an enclosed space.

 

Solutions

Solutions

What can I do to protect myself and others?

Substitution. Use silica-free abrasives for abrasive blasting operations whenever possible. A wide variety of silica-free abrasives are available including, but are not limited to, stainless steel shot, garnet and crushed nut shells.

Engineering controls. Whenever possible, abrasive blasting operations should be conducted in an enclosure, such as a blast cabinet, that isolates the blasting operation and the airborne contaminants generated from the worker. When this is not possible, the use of ventilation to move contaminated air away from the employee should be utilized.

Personal protective equipment. When substitution and engineering controls are not sufficient to maintain airborne exposures below permissible exposure limits (PELs) or, in the absence of applicable PELs, recommended exposure limits, appropriate respiratory protection must be used. The only type of respirator that is NIOSH-approved for use in abrasive blasting operations is a Type CE supplied-air respirator which incorporates additional protection to prevent scratching of the face shield by abrasives and other particles generated.

What resources are available to assist employers?

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite. In addition, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). The education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. Lastly, the consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.

 

Regulations

Regulations

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to abrasive blasting in North Carolina:

General Industry

Maritime

Construction

 

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-707-7876.