Sandblasting with silica-based material, such as sand, poses a potential hazard to the person performing the blasting, as well as others around the blasting area. If performed personally on private property away from others, no federal laws restrict the sandblasting act. However, sandblasting performed for commercial purposes is subject to regulation by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Commission (OSHA). OSHA interprets and enforces laws enacted in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 in order to keep workers safe.
Prevention of Harm
The most basic OSHA regulation of the OSH Act, 29 USC 654, states that "each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees." This regulation applies to the use of sandblasting in any environment. In general, an employer must ensure that her employees do not incur harm as a result of sandblasting methods.
According to Section 1926.55 of the Code of Federal Regulations, limits exist on the amount of airborne silica admissible in the work environment. OSHA currently sets this limit at 1.0 severity. Employers may determine the severity level by calculating the permissible exposure limit divided by exposure with the OSHA Silica E-Tool. Employers must take all feasible precautions possible to decrease the silica in the air. For sandblasting, this may include the use of sandblast cabinets, rooms and vacuum and filtration systems. An industrial hygienist can measure the amount of airborne silica present in a work environment to ensure compliance with this OSHA law.
Section 1927.57 of the Code of Federal Regulations requires all employees performing abrasive blasting to wear a respirator that covers not only the mouth and nose, but also the head, neck and shoulders. This code also requires additional ventilation systems and containment chambers depending on the type and extent of abrasive blasting taking place. However, no matter how the employer controls the environment, "the concentration of respirable dust or fume in the breathing zone of the abrasive-blasting operator or any other worker shall be kept below the levels specified in 1926.55 or other pertinent sections of this part," according to Section 1927.57.