At the beginning of 2021, safety is on all our minds. In addition to the current pandemic safety protocols, it’s also a good time to consider micro abrasive blasting safety best practices.
Micro abrasive blasting work of all kinds, from preparing jet engine components to cleaning classic car parts for restoration, provides significant benefits. Directing a high velocity stream of abrasive media can be performed with precision, flexibility, and control to complete a variety of difficult tasks. However, employers and workers must remember critical safety best practices when blasting.
3 Abrasive Blasting Safety Best Practices
Abrasive blasting releases dust into the air via abrasive media rebounding from the work surface and particles dislodged from the material being blasted. However, abrasive powders such as crushed glass and metals like manganese and lead cause lung damage or prove to be toxic when inhaled.
In addition to potential respiratory damage, long-term exposure to the noise of the blasting equipment and compressors may result in hearing loss.
To address these hazards, employ three simple precautions to minimize the risks and protect worker health. Choose the right abrasive media, use protective equipment, and properly prepare the work environment.
Use the Safer Abrasive Media when Possible
When choosing the abrasive media for your micro abrasive blasting project, you should look at factors such as size and shape, but also consider that some abrasive media are more toxic than others. Hence, when two blasting media choices will both do the job, choose the safer alternative.
For example, silica sand (crystalline silica) dust can cause respiratory problems, including potentially deadly silicosis. Abrasives such as garnet sand, nickel slag, and glass may also result in lung damage when inhaled. If these abrasives are required to complete the operation, workers should take the necessary precautions.
Safer, less toxic alternatives include plastic bead media, sodium bicarbonate, and ice. Sodium bicarbonate, for example, may be the best choice because it is both non-hazardous and eco-friendly.
Always Use Protective Equipment
Both wet and dry blasting create potentially hazardous dust. The dust from dry blasting is the most visible hazard. But, contaminants released into the air from wet blasting also pose risks. To minimize the risks of dust as well as the noise created by the equipment, include a few basic items of protective equipment in your safety procedures.
- Dust Collector. The air contaminants released in the blasting process can be toxic when inhaled. Dust collectors pull blasting waste from the workspace. Clean air passes back through a filter into the blasting cabinet.
- Respirators. If the operator is not using a blast cabinet, a respirator becomes necessary. Use a loose-fitting respirator that rests on the shoulders for best results. The presence of lead requires an additional level of protection. Most paint respirators fail to provide adequate protection.
- Blast suit, gloves, and boots. These items protect the skin and ensure that contaminants stay within the blasting area, protecting other workers and family.
- Ear protection. Investing in quality hearing protection is a must for anyone exposed regularly to the noise created in abrasive blasting situations. Good ear protection devices prevent permanent hearing loss.
Safe Workplace Design
The third of our abrasive blasting safety best practices is to design a safe work environment. Always use a blast cabinet with a dust collector for smaller jobs. Specially designed blast rooms or physical barriers to isolate contaminated air and contain blasting noise may be necessary to protect other workers on bigger jobs.
Adopt Abrasive Blasting Safety Best Practices
Whether you operate a factory or use micro abrasive blasting in your auto body shop or at home, it pays to focus on abrasive blasting safety best practices. Workers who use the safer abrasives and protective equipment in a well-designed work environment are much less likely to suffer the health and financial impacts of respiratory damage and hearing loss.
Airbrasive offers state-of-the-art blast cabinets and dust collectors, a variety of blasting units, as well as a selection of eco-friendly abrasive powders and filters. For 70 years, Airbrasive has set the standard for micro abrasive blasting equipment and safety. Consult our experts for a custom solution to meet your blasting needs while keeping your operators safe.