Based on government studies, industry interviews, and general observations, it was clear that the vast majority of companies engaged in silica-related industries were not utilizing “best practices” for their employees’ clothes cleaning. The documented and observed practices included:
Doing nothing. Simply wearing contaminated clothing during breaks and on the way home
Obviously, doing nothing to clean contaminated clothing is the worst possible scenario for company and its workers. The worker can be forgiven for their lack of knowledge and awareness, but the company is ultimately responsible for the health and safety of its workers.
Using a HEPA filtered manual vacuuming process
From the NIOSH report, Reducing Respirable Dust Exposure of Workers Using an Improved Clothes Cleaning Process:
“The only current federally approved method to perform clothes cleaning for the U.S. Mining industry is to use a HEPA-filter vacuuming system. To perform this technique, a worker uses the vacuum hose and manually moves the nozzle over his/her soiled clothing in an attempt to remove the contamination.
This is a very difficult and time consuming task to perform. In addition, it is nearly impossible to effectively clean one’s back without additional help from a co-worker. Because of this, few workers actually use this technique and prefer to use a single compressed air hose to blow dust from their clothing, even though this is a prohibited method of cleaning.”
Using compressed air nozzles for manual blowoff is dangerous and prohibited by NIOSH & OSHA
“The use of compressed air to remove dust from work clothing is prohibited by MSHA; however, because the vacuuming method is very time-consuming and ineffective, workers may attempt this illegal method of a single compressed air hose to blow dust from their clothing. Although this is a slightly more effective method than the vacuuming technique, it is also time consuming and equally difficult to clean the same hard to reach areas. The primary concern with the blowing technique is that it creates a dust cloud, elevating respirable dust levels for both the worker and coworkers in the work environment [Pollock et al. 2005].”
In addition to these shortcomings, there are also significant safety concerns. From the NIOSH report, Reducing Respirable Dust Exposure of Workers Using an Improved Clothes Cleaning Process:
“There are two federal regulations that affect the cleaning of clothes during the workday for the mining industry. The first is a mining regulation established by MSHA in 30 CFR Part 56.13020 which states: “At no time
shall compressed air be directed toward a person. When compressed air is used, all necessary precautions shall be taken to protect persons from injury.”
“A second regulation is a general industry standard established by OSHA in 29 CFR 1910.242(b) stating that: “Compressed air shall not be used for cleaning purposes except where reduced to less than 206.8kPA (30psi) and then only with effective chip guard and personal protective equipment.”