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Silica Exposure Control

Silica logoSilica dust isn’t a new worksite hazard, but growth in the use of sand in wellsite activities prompted an initiative by Energy Safety Canada to update its Chemical Hazards Guideline to include a new Silica Exposure Control Plan (ECP) with accompanying tools and resources. Many upstream worksites are already successfully using a variety of engineering control strategies. But the goal is to increase access and use of those and other controls so it becomes normal practice.

What is Silica Dust?

Many dusts contain crystalline silica, a mineral that makes up nearly all of what is called sand and rock. It’s in masonry, tiles, granite, brick, concrete, grout, mortar, paint and asphalt.  It’s also in abrasives used in blasting, the dust on roads and the sand used in oilfield operations. When dormant, silica is harmless – but when disturbed, airborne and inhaled it can become a formidable health hazard. 

What are the Dangers?

Prolonged or intense inhalation thickens the lining of the lungs causing them to become an opaque mass and lose the ability to expand and contract – making it as if you were breathing through a straw. The potential outcome is silicosis – a disabling, sometimes fatal lung disease.  Silica exposure has also been linked to bronchitis, tuberculosis and lung cancer.

Information, tools and resource designed to proactively manage a variety of silica exposure risks:

Types of Exposure

10 Common Sources of Silica on Hydraulic Fracturing Sites
  • Thief and vent hatches during loading of proppant, either by way of conveyor belts or pneumatic conveyance (use of air) 
  • Any uncovered fill nozzles on vertical or horizontal sand storage
  • Hopper
  • Handling of bulk silica fracturing dust (powder), such as from a vacuum unit or in air filters
  • Conveyor junction points
  • Sand tent loading and unloading
  • Top of blend truck auger
  • Truck end-dump or bottom-dump locations
  • Coveralls
  • Soil, rock and clay ground cover
Common Sources for Drilling
  • Drilling fluid dry-product additives
  • Cement silo in-loading
  • Operation or maintenance of cuttings dryers
  • Aerosols (mist) of drilling fluid generated by agitation
  • Soil, rock and clay ground cover 
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