Deconstruction of saturated building materials during water damage restoration, routinely includes drywall and plaster removal. Drywall and plaster demolition produces high concentrations of dusts, which contain minerals such as talc, calcite, mica, gypsum, and silica.
Silica is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust following oxygen. Silica can be both crystalline and non-crystalline. Crystalline silica comes in several forms, the most abundant of which is quartz. Crystalline silica is found in brick, concrete, mortar, drywall, plaster, and other construction materials.
Crystalline Silica & Respiratory Health
Particles of crystalline silica that are small enough to be respirable are called silica dust, which is extremely dangerous to the respiratory system. When silica dust is inhaled, the particles can become embedded in lung tissue. Acute exposure to silica dust is associated with lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, and silicosis.
Silicosis is a debilitating fibrotic lung disease caused by inhalation of free crystalline silicon dioxide or silica. Silicosis occurs when the lung tissue develops fiber nodules and scarring around the silica particles. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, which can arise within weeks of exposure or may take years after exposure. Ultimately, death can occur from a litany lung disease or tuberculosis. Currently, there is no curative treatment for silicosis. Disease management can help to slow deterioration and improve quality of life.
Safety Regulation & Water Damage Restoration
The U.S. Department of Labor first emphasized the life-threatening hazards of respirable crystalline silica in the 1930s. In 1999, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a health hazard alert about the dangers of drywall construction and demolition. In October 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began enforcing its Crystalline Silica Dust Rules within the construction industry. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has issued respirable crystalline silica standards 1926.1153 – Respirable crystalline silica.
Though crystalline silica dust in the respirable state can be very dangerous, it is controllable by engineering, administrative, and PPE.
Water Mitigation & Silica Dust Migration
Water damage restoration routinely requires controlled demolition of water damaged building veneers that contain silica, such as drywall and plaster. During deconstruction, silica dust is released and permeates the structures atmosphere. PPE, engineering controls and good ‘housekeeping’ protocols are paramount to providing a safe environment for emergency restoration crews and the structures occupants.
Water Mitigation & Engineering Controls
Engineering controls involve a physical change to the workplace, involving strategies designed to shield people from hazardous conditions. Well-designed engineering controls can be highly effective and can separate the hazard interactions, providing a high level of protection. This is accomplished by containing the hazard and/or by removing hazardous substances through air ventilation. OSHA guidelines prefer engineering controls over administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) whenever possible because engineering controls are designed to remove the hazard at the source.
Containment & Negative Pressure
Water damage restoration projects require a combination of safety measures to minimize or eliminate potential hazard exposures. Extensive preparations are necessary prior deconstruction during every water damage restoration project to accomplish this goal.
Containing the workspace entails isolating the affected area from other parts of the structure that were unaffected by the water event. Once compartmentalized, negative pressure is established, which creates a vacuum within the containment chamber. Negative pressure is maintained at a certain volume, measured in pascals, that promotes the control and capture of airborne particulate matter.
Silica Dust & General Housekeeping
One of the most effective ways of reducing exposure to silica dust in many environments is by implementing a general housekeeping program. The basic rule of thumb when it comes to housekeeping is to avoid any method that could cause dust to disperse into the air.
Housekeeping is a broad term that refers to the routine maintenance and upkeep of a workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found good workplace housekeeping reduces injuries and accidents, improves morale, reduces fire potential, and can even make operations more efficient.
Emergency Restoration & PPE
As defined by OSHA, Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE”, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests, and full body suits.
PPE is an essential component for technicians working in any emergency restoration scenario as they are in direct contact with hazards that cannot be fully mitigated by other control methods. Deployment of additional safeguards, however, can create a safe environment for persons in close proximity but not within the workspace.
Our Commitment to Safety
Every water mitigation project requires extensive preparations prior to de-construction of water damaged building veneers. Many emergency restoration companies do not provide appropriate protective measures, which is primarily due to the time, and effort required, which ultimately affects their bottom line. Property Recovery 911 understands the litany hazards associated with water damage restoration and we take the steps necessary to create a safe environment for our employees as well as the occupants of any structure that has been entrusted to our care. For prompt, professional emergency restoration services, contact us at (267) 808-7200. We are available and on call 24/7 and ready to dispatch a rapid response team to your location.