Preventing Silicosis

How do you prevent silicosis?

Silicosis is completely preventable—if employers and workers take specific steps. If you work in a job that exposes you to silica dust, your employer must, by law, give you the correct equipment and clothing you need to protect yourself. Then you are responsible for using it—always—and for taking other steps to protect yourself and your family as you leave your job site and head home.


Specific steps to take while you are at work:

  • Avoid working in dust whenever possible.
  • Know what causes silica dust at your workplace.
  • Even if you cannot see dust, you can still be at risk from silica.
  • If there is visible dust, you are almost definitely at risk.

Use water sprays and ventilation when working in confined structures, to lower the amount of dust, including:

  • Use a water hose to wet dust before it becomes airborne
  • Ue saws that add water to the blade
  • Use drills that add water through the stem or have dust collection systems
  • Use blast cleaning machines or cabinets to control dust

Your employer must give you a properly fitted respirator that is specifically designed (and certified) to protect you from crystalline silica, in cases where water sprays and ventilation alone are not enough to reduce silica dust levels.

  • If you use a tight-fitting respirator for your particular work, you cannot have a beard or mustache. Beards and mustaches keep the respirator from sealing to your face.
  • Go to lung screenings and other health programs offered at work.

Practice good personal hygiene at the workplace:

  • Do not eat, drink, or use tobacco products in dusty areas.
  • If you smoke, do not smoke in dusty areas, and always wash your hands and face outside dusty areas before smoking. Make a plan to quit as soon as you are ready – smoking always makes lung disease worse.
  • Wash hands and face outside dusty areas before eating or drinking.
  • Park your car in an area where it won't be contaminated with silica.
  • At work, change into disposable or washable work clothes.
  • If possible, shower and change into clean clothes before leaving the worksite. This will prevent you from bringing silica into other work areas, your car and your home—and exposing your family and other people to silica.


Always remember that when you wear dusty clothing in your car, at home, or anywhere outside of your worksite, you may be exposing your family to potentially deadly silica!


Be sure you are using the proper respirator that fits well and is not uncomfortable. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health approves specific respirators for specific situations.  The type of respirator you need depends on:

  • The amount of silica dust to which you are exposed.
  • The kind of work you need to do.