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U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Directorate of Standards and Guidance
Office of Maritime
An OSHA Guidance Document
TABLE OF CONTENTS
B. Work Practices
C. Personal Hygiene
D. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
E. Waste Management and Prevention
Training and Information
Other Safety and Health Hazards
Additional Sources of Information
OSHA developed this document to alert shipyard employers and their employees
about abrasive blasting hazards and the controls that can be implemented to
reduce, avoid or eliminate them. This document focuses on air contaminants
because they are a major hazard during abrasive blasting. Other abrasive
blasting safety and health hazards are discussed along with information
regarding applicable regulations and control methods.
This guidance document provides employers with recommendations and information
on how to protect their employees from the various hazards of abrasive blasting
operations. These recommendations range from engineering controls, exposure
monitoring and medical surveillance, to training on the OSHA Hazard
Communication and PPE standards. In addition, OSHA recommends that employers
perform an inspection of the worksite to identify additional hazards that may be
present, such as excessive noise, static electricity, confined spaces, and heat
and fall hazards. Where possible, OSHA has included the website address where
employers may find additional information on specific topics. OSHA recommends
that employers spend time evaluating each of the discussed hazards, the
suggested preventative measures and the abatement steps that have been detailed.
Although this guidance document is designed specifically for shipyard
employment, OSHA hopes that employers with similar work environments may also
find this information useful.
Employers with limited expertise in this area can obtain services from (1) their
state on-site safety and health consultation program; (2) industry associations,
such as Shipbuilders Council of America, National Shipbuilders Research Program
or National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; (3) risk management
services through their workers' compensation insurance provider; or (4) an
industrial hygienist or other qualified health and safety consultant. A
directory of free state safety and health consultation services is available
website or by
contacting your local OSHA office. A listing of occupational and environmental
health and safety consultants by state is available through the American
Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and may be
accessed electronically or by
calling AIHA Customer Service in Fairfax, Virginia at (703) 849-8888. Workplace
health and safety consultants may also be located in the yellow pages of your
telephone directory for safety and/or environmental engineers.
This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it
creates no new legal obligations. It is advisory in nature, informational in
content, and is intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful
workplace. The OSH Act requires employers to comply with hazard-specific safety
and health standards. Under the OSH Act, the extent of an employer's obligation
to address hazards related to scaffolding and fall protection is governed by 29
CFR Part 1915 Subpart E Scaffolds, Ladders and Other Working Surfaces, and 29
CFR Part 1915 Subpart I Personal Protective Equipment. Many of these
requirements are referenced in this guidance and employers must comply with
them. In addition, pursuant to Section 5(a)(1), the General Duty Clause of the
OSH Act, employers must provide their employees with a workplace free from
recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Employers can
be cited for violating the General Duty Clause if there is a recognized hazard
and they do not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate the hazard. However,
failure to implement the recommendations in this guidance is not, in itself, a
violation of the General Duty Clause. Citations can only be based on standards,
regulations, and the General Duty Clause.
In the shipbuilding and ship repair industry, abrasive blasting is the most
common surface preparation technique used to remove old paint and other surface
materials such as rust, mill scale, dirt, and salts. Abrasive blasting might be
conducted during vessel fabrication (e.g., on piping, steel plates and steel
members used in structural assemblies, and other miscellaneous materials) and
during maintenance and repair operations that include blasting and painting the
ship's hull, and interior tanks and spaces. Surface preparation techniques, such
as abrasive blasting, are also one of the most significant sources of shipyard
wastes and pollution. (1)
In abrasive blasting, compressed air is used to propel abrasive material from a
blast pot, through a blasting hose to a nozzle, where it is directed to the work
area at high velocity by the operator. Air pressure is typically high, at 100
pounds per square inch, and nozzle velocities can approach 650 - 1,700 feet per
second. (2) Abrasive blasting is usually conducted manually within a blast
building, a dry dock, a floating dry dock, graving dock, shipways, vessel
sections, on the ground, on board a vessel, and at the pier. (3) Automated
abrasive blasting machines such as centrifugal blasting machines are also used
in shipyards to prepare materials prior to priming or painting.
ABRASIVE BLASTING OPERATIONS CAN EXPOSE SHIPYARD EMPLOYEES
TO TOXIC AIR CONTAMINANTS, HIGH NOISE LEVELS,
AND OTHER SAFETY AND HEALTH HAZARDS.
Shipyard employees who engage in abrasive blasting are at an increased risk of
exposure to toxic dusts, high noise levels, and a range of other safety and
health hazards. Helpers (e.g., the "pot tender" and cleanup personnel) and
others may also be at risk if they work in the vicinity of areas where abrasive
blasting is conducted.
Potential exposure to dust and air contaminants is the primary health hazard
associated with abrasive blasting. Abrasive blasting can generate large
quantities of dust that can contain high levels of toxic air contaminants. The
source of the air contaminants includes the base material being blasted, the
surface coating(s) being removed, the abrasive being used, and any abrasive
contamination from previous blasting operations. (4) This means that employees
can have exposures to multiple air contaminants from both the abrasive and the
surface being blasted. Potential air contaminants that might be associated with
abrasive blasting in shipyards and their sources are listed in Table 1.
|Table 1. Potential Air Contaminants Associated with Abrasive Blasting in
Potential Air Contaminants
(e.g., steel, aluminum, stainless steel,
galvanized steel, copper-nickel and other copper alloys)
Aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead,
manganese, nickel, and zinc
(e.g., pre-construction primers,
anticorrosive and antifouling paints)
barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, tributyl tin compounds, zinc
(e.g., coal slag, copper slag, nickel slag, glass, steel grit, garnet,
Arsenic, beryllium, amorphous silica, cadmium, chromium, cobalt,
crystalline silica, lead, manganese, nickel, silver, titanium, and vanadium
Sources: EPA, 1997; EPA, 2000; NFESC, 1996; NIOSH, 1998.
The base materials used to fabricate ships include iron-containing (e.g., carbon
steel) and non-iron-containing metals. Various grades of mild and high strength
steel are used for the structural framework of most ships while aluminum and
other non-iron-containing materials are used for some superstructures and other
areas with specific corrosion resistance and structural requirements. Other
materials such as galvanized steel, stainless steel, and copper alloys are used
to a much lesser extent. Depending on the base material being blasted, potential
air contaminants might include aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead,
manganese, nickel, and zinc.
The interior and exterior surfaces of ships are protected with coatings that
include zinc-based pre-construction primers (shop primers) and metal-based
anticorrosive and antifouling paints. Antifouling paints are used on the hulls
of ships to prevent the buildup of marine organisms (e.g., algae, bacteria, and
barnacles) and typically include copper-based and tributyl tin-based paints.
Metal-based paints are used to protect ship surfaces from corrosion and can
contain up to 30 percent heavy metals. Lead compounds, such as lead chromate and
red lead tetraoxide, have been used extensively in marine paint. Depending on
the surface coating being blasted, potential air contaminants might include
barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, zinc, organotin compounds, and other
types of air contaminants.
Abrasive Blasting Media
Common blasting abrasives used for paint removal and surface preparation in
shipyard employment include coal slag, copper slag, and other metallic grit and
shot. Traditionally, silica sand was used as a blasting abrasive; however, the
majority of shipyards no longer use silica sand because of the health hazards
associated with silica dust. Silica dust is generated by using blasting
abrasives that contain crystalline silica (e.g., quartz rock, river sand, and
beach sand) and when blasting crystalline silica-containing surfaces such as
concrete or masonry. Employees who breathe in fine (respirable) particles of
crystalline silica are at risk of developing silicosis, a stiffening and
scarring of the lungs which can result in death.
The use of non-silica abrasives, such as coal and smelter slags, and metallic
(e.g., steel shot, cast iron grit, cast iron shot) and mineral abrasives (e.g.,
garnet, olivine, and staurolite), results in nondetectable or lower levels of
airborne crystalline silica; but levels of other hazardous air contaminants can
be elevated, depending on the abrasive. For example, in a NIOSH-sponsored field
study that evaluated silica sand alternatives for abrasive blasting, coal slag
generated substantially lower airborne levels of crystalline silica than silica
sand (5). But, airborne levels of other air contaminants (arsenic, beryllium,
cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, nickel, titanium and vanadium) were two to
four times higher than for silica sand. Other researchers have reported that
abrasive blasting with copper slag can generate arsenic, chromium, and lead
levels that exceed the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) for these
The levels of heavy metals in non-silica abrasives are highly variable depending
on the type of raw material sources and/or the manufacturing processes used to
make the abrasives. (5) Abrasive blasting media from coal slag will typically
contain nickel and vanadium and a variety of other metals depending on the
source of the coal used to make the slag. Copper slag from primary smelters
contains significant levels of barium, cobalt, copper, chromium (trivalent), and
nickel; whereas copper slag from secondary smelters might contain significant
levels of arsenic and lead. Nickel slag typically contains elevated levels of
copper, chromium (trivalent), and nickel and lower levels of cobalt and
A summary of the potential health hazards associated with abrasive blasting air
contaminants and their corresponding OSHA PELs are listed in Table 2.
Table 2. Hazards of Air
Contaminants Associated with Abrasive Blasting in Shipyards
||Potential Health Hazards
Occupational overexposure to aluminum can lead to
15 (total dust)
5 (respirable dust)
Occupational overexposure to arsenic can increase the risk of skin, lung
and possibly lymphatic cancers and lead to peripheral neuropathy and vascular
disease [Reynaud's phenomenon].
Occupational overexposure to barium dust can lead
to respiratory irritation.
15 (total dust)
5 (respirable dust)
Occupational overexposure to beryllium can lead to the immune-mediated
lung disorder known as chronic beryllium disease, increase the risk of lung
cancer, and can cause allergic skin reactions upon dermal contact.
Occupational overexposure to cadmium can lead to degeneration of the
renal tubules [kidney damage] manifested by increased protein in the urine [proteinuria]; increased
blood pressure contributing to hypertension; obstructive lung diseases like
chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema; and increase the risk of
lung and prostate cancer.
Occupational overexposure to chromium may lead to skin
irritation and increase the risk of lung fibrosis.
Occupational overexposure to trivalent chromium may lead
to respiratory irritation and allergic dermatitis upon skin contact.
Occupational overexposure to hexavalent chromium can increase the
risk of lung cancer and occupational asthma, damage nasal tissue and cause
allergic dermatitis with skin contact.
Occupational overexposure to cobalt can lead to chronic lung inflammation and
pulmonary fibrosis, increase the risk of lung cancer, and cause allergic contact
dermatitis with skin contact.
Occupational overexposure to copper can lead to
Occupational overexposure to iron oxide can lead to siderosis [mildly
fibrotic lung disease].
Occupational overexposure to lead can cause subclinical and clinical
peripheral neuropathy [muscle weakness, pain, and paralysis of extremities],
disruption of hemesynthesis and anemia, loss of kidney function, increased blood
pressure, nephropathy, reduced sperm count and male sterility, and increase the
risk of cancer.
Occupational overexposure to manganese can lead to subclinical/clinical
manganism, a 'Parkinson's -like' movement disorder manifested by reduced
reaction time, loss of steadiness, walking difficulties, and emotional
Occupational overexposure to nickel compounds can increase the risk
of lung and nasal cancers, and cause occupational asthma and allergic
dermatitis with skin contact.
Occupational overexposure to crystalline silica can lead
to the chronic lung disease, silicosis, and increase the risk of lung cancer.
10 (% SiO2 + 2)
Occupational overexposure to silver can lead to argyria, a gray
pigmentation disorder of the skin and eye.
Occupational overexposure to certain organotins may lead to headaches and
subclinical neurological disturbances.
Occupational overexposure to titanium dioxide can lead to lung
inflammation and pulmonary fibrosis.
Occupational overexposure to vanadium can lead to lung inflammation,
chronic bronchitis, and pulmonary fibrosis.
Zinc and Copper
Occupational overexposure to zinc or
copper can lead to metal fume fever [acute 'pneumonia-like' symptoms].
15 (total dust)
5 (respirable dust)
a OSHA PEL refers to the eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA)
concentration unless otherwise noted.
b Ceiling limit refers to that concentration that must not be exceeded during
any part of the working exposure.
Sources: NIOSH, 1986; NIOSH, 2003; 29 CFR 1915.1000; 29 CFR 1915.1018; 29 CFR
1915.1025; 29 CFR 1915.1026; 29 CFR 1915.1027.
Exposure to hazardous air contaminants during abrasive blasting can be
controlled through the combined use of the following control measures:
engineering controls; work practices; personal hygiene; waste management and
prevention programs; and personal protective equipment (PPE);
A. ENGINEERING CONTROLS
1. Substitution - The easiest way to eliminate hazardous air contaminants
associated with abrasive media is to select a safer abrasive blasting agent. If
silica sand is used as a blasting abrasive, OSHA recommends that employers
evaluate the available blasting agents and select the safest blasting agent that
is appropriate for the work being performed. Several guides are available to
help employers select abrasive blasting agents. For example, Michigan State
University offers a substitutes list in its user's manual for preventing
silicosis. (7) There are important things to keep in mind when selecting an
alternative blasting agent:
- depending on the abrasive, alternative abrasive agents can result in elevated
levels of other hazardous air contaminants such as heavy metals;
- alternative abrasive agents containing small amounts of crystalline silica
(one percent or less) might result in elevated levels of airborne crystalline
silica if used in confined or enclosed spaces, such as cargo holds, tanks and
- the use of alternative abrasive agents for abrasive blasting can reduce but
might not eliminate silica exposures if silica-containing substrates are
blasted, such as silica-containing coatings; and
- the use of appropriate procedures for the cleanup and disposal of waste
2. Isolation or enclosure - OSHA recommends that abrasive blasting operations be
isolated to minimize exposure to employees and prevent exposure to others in the
work area and the environment.
For small objects, a properly designed, sealed, and ventilated blasting cabinet
can be used to eliminate operator and bystander exposure to hazardous air
For transportable objects too large for blasting cabinets, a blasting room where
blasting is done manually by one or more operators working inside the room
should be considered. Blasting rooms should have sufficient ventilation to: (1)
provide good operator visibility, (2) prevent dust from settling and
accumulating in the room, (3) reduce dust concentrations so that PPE provides
adequate protection, and (4) prevent the escape of contaminants into adjacent
work areas or the environment. Operators working inside abrasive blasting rooms
must be protected by hoods and Type CE NIOSH certified abrasive blasting airline
respirators, or by positive-pressure blasting helmets. [29 CFR 1915.34(c)(3)]
For large objects or structures that cannot be transported, or for fixed
structures, temporary enclosures should be used. Where possible, objects or
structures should be fully enclosed. When full enclosure is not possible, extend
screening above the object or structure, and blast downwards. Air monitoring
should be used to ensure that employees outside the enclosure are not exposed to
elevated levels of air contaminants. If high levels of air contaminants are
detected outside the enclosure; (1) employees should be excluded from these
areas through the use of warnings signs and barricades or provided with
appropriate PPE and (2) better control measures should be investigated and
When open air blasting must be conducted, exclusion zones can be used to protect
employees and others in the vicinity from exposure to elevated levels of
hazardous air contaminants. Exclusion zones can also be used in conjunction with
blasting rooms and temporary enclosures. The extent of the zone should be based
on the risk to all unprotected people and the weather conditions at the time of
the blasting. Exclusion zones should be posted with appropriate warning signs
and restricted to those employees wearing respiratory protection.
3. Process or Equipment Change - OSHA recommends that alternative techniques to
dry abrasive blasting be used to reduce or eliminate the amount of dust
generated during surface preparation. These techniques are summarized in Table 3
and include wet abrasive blasting, hydroblasting, and blasting with dry ice
pellets. Cleaning techniques that do not use abrasive blasting and are suitable
for smaller jobs include thermal, chemical, and mechanical stripping methods.
Other removal techniques that may reduce or eliminate toxic dust levels during
surface preparation include blast cleaning with baking soda (sodium
bicarbonate), reusable sponge abrasives, or plastic media (PMB); cryogenic
stripping (immersing small parts into liquid nitrogen, followed by gentle
abrasion or PMB); and laser paint stripping (generates no waste and uses a
pulsed carbon dioxide laser as the stripping agent).
Table 3. Alternative Methods for Abrasive Blasting in Shipyard Employment
Wet Abrasive Blasting
Includes systems where a mixture of abrasive and water is propelled by
compressed air and an alternative method where water is added to conventional
abrasive blasting nozzles via an adapter (retrofit water curtain device).
Inhibitors may need to be added to the water to minimize "flash rusting" surface
areas that rust when bare metal is exposed to the elements between removal of
old coating and application of new coating. Additives (such as Blastox) can be
added to wetted grit to bind heavy metals and form silicates (limiting employee
and environmental exposure to heavy metals).
- Can be used in most instances
where dry abrasive blasting is used.
- Produces substantially lower dust emissions and lessens the amount of
containment required (compared to dry blasting). For example, airborne dust can
be reduced 50-75% by a simple water curtain device that fits around the blasting
hose nozzle. (Device has a minimal effect on cleaning rate).
- Surface cleaning rate can be lower compared to dry abrasive blasting because
most wet abrasive blasters mix water with the abrasive prior to impact on the
surface. To address this problem a retrofit (water curtain) device that
minimizes premixing of the water with the abrasive blast was developed to fit
over the end of conventional abrasive blast nozzles.
- Can generate wastewater contaminated with paint chips and surface
(water jet stripping)
A cavitating high-pressure water jet stripping system that uses an engine-driven
high-pressure pump, a large volume of water, high-pressure hose, and a gun
equipped with a spray nozzle. Abrasives may also be introduced into this type of
system. Systems may use pressures as high as 50,000 psig* (ultra high pressure
washing). Some systems (e.g., robotically driven) reuse (recirculate) the water
for additional blasting by automatically removing the paint chips or stripped
materials from the water. Inhibitors may need to be used to prevent flash
- Can be used in most instances where abrasive blasting is
- Removes most paints. Excellent method for removing hard coatings from metal
substrates. Primary application is for older, (saline) rusted surfaces; not new
steel. Can be used for stripping hulls, removing deposits and scale from heat
exchangers, and removing rubber liners.
- Does not require complex containment necessary for dry grit blasting and
produces substantially lower dust emissions. Permits more flexible scheduling of
maintenance projects on dust-sensitive components.
- Avoids need to dispose of large quantities of contaminated spent grit. Paint
chips can be gathered with a wet vacuum.
- Recirculating water systems produce very little waste. Wastewater is usually
suitable for sewer disposal after paint particles are removed.
- Not always as efficient as abrasive grit blasting and has high capital and
maintenance costs. Production rate is lower with ultra-high pressure blasting;
but containment and cleanup costs are lower. For viscous coatings, production
rate exceeds that of dry grit blasting.
- Water blasted at ultra-high pressures can sever operators' limbs. Work is also
very strenuous. Frequent rotation of employees is necessary to prevent fatigue.
- Major problem with hydroblasting is flash rusting.
Centrifugal Wheel Blasting
Uses high-speed rotating blades inside an enclosure
equipped with a dust collector to propel abrasive against the surface to be
cleaned. Removes rust, paint, and mill scale. Abrasives include steel shot,
steel grit, cut wire, and chilled iron grit. Surface to be cleaned is usually
passed through the enclosure while rotating blade assembly remains fixed. Can
also be used in the field with special adaptors where rotating blade assembly
moves across a stationary work surface.
- Enclosed systems typically used for uniform-sized parts
(e.g., valves, pipes, or steel sections). Small hand-held units developed for
use on bridges and similar structures. Field versions used for large, flat,
horizontal surfaces (e.g., ship decks). Some designed for use on large vertical
surfaces (ship hulls and storage tanks).
- Abrasives are retrieved and recycled (continuously recovered, cleaned, and
- Very limited to no contact with airborne dust or high velocity particles
(little abrasive or paint debris escapes).
Removes paint and surface coatings by abrasive blasting
and simultaneously collects and recovers spent abrasive and paint debris with a
vacuum capture and collection system surrounding the blast nozzle. Uses a
standard blast nozzle inside a vacuum recovery head that forms a tight seal with
the work surface. A variety of heads (different sizes) are available for
different work surfaces (e.g., flat surfaces, inside corners, outside corners).
Abrasives typically include aluminum oxide, garnet, steel shot, steel grit, and
chilled iron grit.
- Abrasive is automatically reclaimed and reused as work
- When used properly, cleans effectively with minimal dust. However, operators
do not always use the appropriate head and break the vacuum seal by lifting the
apparatus to clean inaccessible surfaces and odd shapes. This work practice
defeats the purpose of the vacuum exhaust system and exposes employees to
blasting dust and debris.
- Heavy and awkward to use.
- Small units have low production rates and relatively high costs.
Dry Ice Pellets
Abrasive blasting with dry ice pellets (solid carbon
dioxide). After use, the dry ice evaporates leaving only paint chips/scales and
rust that can be vacuumed or swept up and placed in containers for disposal.
Applications include cleaning aircraft parts and exotic metals.
- Waste is minimized and includes paint chips/scales and
rust; no media waste.
- Capital costs can be high (i.e., dry ice, handling, and storage equipment
- Can provide excellent surface preparation.
- Multiple passes may be needed to fully remove paint. (Lack of "bounce back"
effect that helps remove surface contaminants from the back and sides of the
object being blasted).
- May be an asphyxiant hazard
- System may cause employee fatigue.
Uses a flame or stream of superheated air to heat and
soften paint, allowing for easy removal.
- Generates one waste stream (i.e., waste paint).
- Limited in its application. Effective for small parts; not suitable for
- More labor intensive than other stripping methods.
Immersing small parts in dip tanks containing a stripping solution. Chemical
stripping solutions include organic (e.g., methylene chloride-based solutions)
and inorganic (e.g., caustic soda solutions) strippers. Parts must be rinsed to
remove stripping solution residue.
- Effective for small fiberglass, aluminum,
and delicate steel parts.
- Requires adequate ventilation and other safety measures.
- Generates multiple waste streams including contaminated rinse water and
hazardous waste strippers.
- Organic strippers typically used for coated parts; inorganic strippers
typically used for non-coated parts.
- Key problems with inorganic strippers: flash rusting of non-coated parts and
waste stripper that must be discarded as hazardous waste.
- Chemicals, such as methylene chloride, may cause adverse health effects.
Chipping, grinding, sanding, or scraping the coating off
small parts or surfaces through the use of needle guns, chipping hammers,
sanders, and grinders. Some power tools may be equipped with dust collection
- Generates paint waste and airborne particulate emissions.
- May be less costly for small areas aboard vessels.
* psig: pounds per square
Sources: EPA, 1991, 1995, and 1997; Kura, B. et al., (no date); MSU, 1999; PPRC,
1997a and b; Queensland Government, 1999.
4. Ventilation - All blast-cleaning enclosures must be adequately ventilated.
Abrasive blasting rooms, portable blast-cleaning equipment, and temporary
containment structures must have sufficient exhaust ventilation to: (1) prevent
a buildup of dust-laden air and reduce the concentrations of hazardous air
contaminants; (2) increase operator visibility; and (3) prevent any leakage of
dust to the outside. Exhaust ventilation systems must be constructed, installed,
inspected, and maintained according to the OSHA Ventilation standard for
abrasive blasting. (29 CFR 1910.94(a)) The exhaust air from blast-cleaning
equipment must be discharged to the outside through an appropriate dust
collector to protect the workplace, the environment and the surrounding
community from hazardous air contaminants. The dust collector should be set up
so that the accumulated dust can be emptied and removed without contaminating
work areas. (8)
5. Wet Methods - OSHA recommends that wet methods be used to reduce or eliminate
the amount of dust generated during surface preparation. All wet blasting
techniques (such as wet abrasive blasting and hydroblasting) produce
substantially lower dust emissions compared to dry abrasive blasting. (9) If a
wet blasting technique is not feasible, consider installing a water hose to wet
down the dust at the point of generation.
B. WORK PRACTICES
OSHA believes that by using good work practices, the risk of exposure to toxic
air contaminants and other safety and health hazards associated with abrasive
blasting can be minimized. Such practices might include:
- using vacuums equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters or
wet methods when removing accumulated dust.
- scheduling blasting when the least number of people would be exposed;
- blasting in a specified location that is as far away as possible from other
- stopping other work and clearing people away while blasting is taking place;
- cleaning up paint chips, dust, and used abrasive daily or as soon as possible
after blasting has finished;
- avoiding blasting in windy conditions; and
- posting warning signs to mark the boundaries of work areas contaminated with
blasting dust and alerting employees to the hazard and any required PPE.
C. PERSONAL HYGIENE
OSHA recommends that employers require employees to use proper personal hygiene
practices. These practices are an important control measure for protecting
employees from exposure to hazardous contaminants generated during abrasive
blasting. Some contaminants, such as lead, are hazardous when inhaled or
ingested. Others, such as beryllium, may be hazardous through inhalation and
skin contact. Good personal hygiene practices to limit exposure to abrasive
blasting dust include the following:
- Prohibiting eating, drinking, using tobacco products, or applying cosmetics in
abrasive blasting areas;
- Washing hands and face before eating, drinking, smoking, or applying
- Showering before leaving the worksite;
- Changing into clean clothing before leaving the worksite; and
- Parking cars where they will not be contaminated with abrasive blasting dust.
Employees who do not shower and change into clean clothing before
leaving the worksite may contaminate their automobiles
and homes with toxic dust.
Other members of the household may then be exposed
to harmful levels of toxic substances.
D. PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
OSHA requires controls, such as substitution, isolation, and ventilation, as the
primary means of preventing or minimizing exposures to airborne contaminants
during activities such as abrasive blasting in 29 CFR 1910.134(a). However, when
such controls cannot keep exposures below the OSHA PELs, employees must use
NIOSH-certified respirators appropriate for the types and concentrations of
airborne contaminants present during abrasive blasting (29 CFR 1910.134(d)(1)(i)). In
all cases, respirators should be donned before entering contaminated work areas
and removed only after leaving.
Abrasive blasting operators must wear NIOSH-certified Type CE abrasive blasting
- working in enclosed or confined spaces; or
- using abrasive media that contains more than one percent crystalline silica.
When not working in enclosed and confined spaces, or where abrasives containing
less than one percent crystalline silica are used, abrasive blasters must be
protected with Type CE abrasive blasting respirators or air-purifying
respirators with HEPA filters. The respirator selected should be based on the
highest anticipated exposures as determined by an evaluation of the hazards to
which employees will be exposed. As a minimum, respiratory protection for heavy
metals and silica dusts require an air-purifying respirator with HEPA filters.
However, if workplace conditions for airborne contaminants, or their
concentrations are highly variable or are not well understood, respiratory
protection with a higher level of protection may be needed.
Appropriate respiratory protection must also be provided for other employees
working in areas where concentrations of abrasive materials and dusts are
present; and for short, intermittent or occasional dust exposures such as
cleanup, dumping of dust collectors, or unloading shipments of abrasives.
When respirators are used, employers must establish a comprehensive respiratory
protection program as required by the OSHA Respiratory Protection standard. (29 CFR 1910.134)
Important elements of this standard include: (1) designating a program
administrator; (2) evaluating workplace exposures; (3) selecting NIOSH-certified
respirators; (4) medically evaluating employees to determine their ability to
perform the work while wearing a respirator; (5) conducting respirator fit
testing; (6) developing procedures for cleaning, inspecting, maintaining, and
storing respirators; (7) training employees at least annually; and (8)
evaluating the effectiveness of the respirator program on a regular basis.
In addition to respiratory protection, additional PPE is required for abrasive
blasting operators for specific operations. This additional PPE may include:
- eye and face protection (if the respirator design does not provide this
protection); (29 CFR 1915.153)
- a protective helmet (if the respirator design does not provide this protection
and there is potential for head injury); (29 CFR 1915.155)
- heavy canvas or leather gloves and aprons (or equivalent protection) to
protect from the impact of abrasives; (29 CFR 1915.34(c)(3)(iv))
- safety shoes or boots; (29 CFR 1915.156)
- hearing protectors to reduce noise levels below the OSHA PELs; (29 CFR 1910.95)
- fall protection (if protection from falling cannot be provided by railings).
(29 CFR 1915.34(c)(3)(v))
OSHA also requires that other employees, such as the pot tender and abrasive
recovery men, working in abrasive blasting areas where there is an unsafe
concentration of abrasive materials and dusts be protected with appropriate eye
and respiratory protection. (29 CFR 1915.34(c)(3)(iii)) However, employers are required
to perform a hazard assessment of the worksite to determine the hazards
employees are exposed to, or are likely to be exposed to, that will necessitate
issuing PPE. From this assessment, employers must identify any and all pieces of
PPE that each employee will need in order to complete the task in a safe and
healthful manner. (29 CFR 1915.152(b)) and Subpart I - Personal Protective Equipment).
Abrasive blasters' dusty clothes can contaminate their cars, homes and other
worksites with hazardous air contaminants. To ensure that this does not happen,
OSHA recommends that employees:
- Before beginning work, change into disposable or washable work clothes at the
- Store street clothes separately from work clothes in a clean area;
- Change into clean clothing before leaving the worksite.
E. WASTE MANAGEMENT AND PREVENTION
Shipbuilding and repair activities present public health and environmental
concerns because of the processes and materials that are used, as well as the
close proximity of shipyards to large bodies of water. Pollutants and wastes
typically generated by dry abrasive blasting include: (1) particulate air
emissions of blasting abrasives and paint chips; and (2) large quantities of
spent abrasives mixed with paint chips that can enter waterways through
shipyards' stormwater, or when a marine railway is flooded. Both of these waste
streams can be hazardous to people and the environment because they might
contain toxic metals. In addition, cleanup and disposal costs of spent abrasive
can be high, especially if it is contaminated with hazardous paints. This
information needs to be verified with the applicable
Agency laws in your area.
OSHA recommends that air sampling be conducted by trained personnel in all
abrasive blasting applications. This sampling is necessary to: (1) measure
employee exposure to airborne contaminants (e.g., total dust, respirable
crystalline silica and heavy metals); (2) select the proper PPE; and (3)
evaluate the effectiveness of engineering controls. Exposure monitoring must be
performed when abrasive blasting applications may expose employees to arsenic
(29 CFR 1915.1018), cadmium (29 CFR 1915.1027), hexavalent chromium (29 CFR
1915.1026) or lead (29 CFR 1915.1025). If concentrations of airborne
contaminants are high, corrective measures should be taken to reduce exposures
and sampling should be repeated to confirm reduced exposures. Air samples should
to be collected and analyzed according to OSHA methods or their equivalent.
Specific substances requiring medical surveillance that might be encountered in
shipyards during abrasive blasting include arsenic (29 CFR 1915.1018),
cadmium (29 CFR 1915.1027), hexavalent
chromium (29 CFR
1915.1026) and lead (29 CFR
1915.1025). Depending on the levels of these air contaminants, employers may
need to comply with the requirements of one or more substance-specific
standards, including the provision of medical surveillance. Medical surveillance
requirements vary depending on the substance and may include: work and medical
histories, smoking histories, chest X-rays, blood and urine testing, medical
examinations, and other tests or procedures.
Some air contaminants, such as crystalline silica, do not have OSHA medical
surveillance requirements. However, NIOSH recommends that medical examinations
be available to all employees who may be exposed to crystalline silica.
Examination should at least include: (1) a medical and occupational history to
collect data on employee exposure to crystalline silica and signs and symptoms
of respiratory disease; (2) a chest X-ray; (3) pulmonary function testing; and
(4) an annual evaluation for tuberculosis. (8)
OSHA recommends that all employers engaged in abrasive blasting evaluate the
risks abrasive blasting dusts present to exposed employees and determine what
medical surveillance, if any, is required. The need for medical surveillance can
usually be determined by conducting air sampling to measure and evaluate the
levels of regulated air contaminants.
TRAINING AND INFORMATION
OSHA recommends that employers provide information and training to employees who
engage in abrasive blasting activities. This information should incorporate the
training requirements of the OSHA Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1915.1200) and
Personal Protective Equipment (29 CFR 1915.152) standards. If necessary, the
training requirements of applicable substance-specific standards (arsenic,
cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and lead) must also be addressed. Typical
information and training includes:
- The location and availability of the written hazard communication program and
material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for abrasives;
- Instruction about the purpose and set-up of regulated areas marking the
boundaries of blasting areas containing hazardous materials, sand, and dusts;
- Methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of
hazardous air contaminants, such as workplace air sampling outside of the
- Results of any air sampling the employer or others have conducted for levels
of hazardous air contaminants in the workplace;
- The physical and health hazards of the air contaminants employees are exposed
to. Employees should be made aware of the importance of recognizing relevant
symptoms and encouraged to report such symptoms to their employer for further
evaluation and advice;
- Discussion about the importance of engineering controls, work practices, and
personal hygiene in reducing exposure to hazardous air contaminants;
- Instruction about the need, use, limitations, and care of appropriate PPE
(including protective clothing, and respiratory, hearing, and fall protection);
- Other controls the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure
to hazardous air contaminants, such as medical surveillance programs;
- Information regarding applicable OSHA standards, other relevant safety and
health hazards and the control measures implemented to protect employees; and
- A copy of this guidance document.
Employers engaging in abrasive blasting should research
the relevant training requirements to ensure that their employees are protected.
The above listing may not be all-inclusive.
OTHER SAFETY AND HEALTH HAZARDS
Although this guidance document focuses on the hazards of air contaminants
associated with abrasive blasting, employers must be aware of other safety and
health hazards that are present in the workplace. OSHA recommends that employers
perform an inspection of the worksite, prior to work taking place, to determine
what hazards exist and what precautions need to be taken. Some of these hazards
are discussed below.
Exposure to Noise
Abrasive blasting produces noise levels that can cause permanent hearing loss in
unprotected employees and others close to the blasting process. The main source
of noise is the discharge of compressed air at the blast nozzle. Other noise
sources during manual blasting include: (1) the supply air inside the operator's
helmet; (2) the impact of the abrasive on the surface being blasted; (3) air
compressors; (4) exhaust ventilation systems; and (5) air releases during grit
pot blow-down. Small abrasive blasting cabinets are also significant sources of
noise exposure for operators.
Typical Noise Levels Associated with Abrasive Blasting
- Air discharge from blast nozzle: 112 to 119 dB(A)
- Supply air inside operator's helmet: 94 to 102 dB(A)
- Abrasive blasting cabinets: 90 to 101 dB(A)
- Air compressors: 85 to 88 dB(A)
Maximum noise levels up to 145 dB(A) have been measured at the operator when the
grit pot runs out of abrasive. (10)
OSHA regulates occupational noise exposure in shipyards under
29 CFR 1910.95.
The current PEL is 90 dB(A) with employers taking action at 85 dB(A), both
measured as eight-hour time-weighted averages. For those employees exposed to
elevated levels of noise, employers must implement the requirements of the noise
standard which include provisions for engineering and administrative controls,
employee noise monitoring, audiometric testing, hearing protectors, training,
Additional information may be found on OSHA's
Noise and Hearing Conservation
Safety and Health Topics Page, including information on recognition, evaluation, control,
compliance, and training.
Employees engaged in abrasive blasting can be struck by high-speed particles
from the blasting media or the surface being blasted (substrate). Potential
injuries can include particles becoming embedded in the skin, eye damage, severe
cuts, and burns. Control measures to prevent these injuries include: (1) never
pointing a blast nozzle at a person; (2) using a dead-man control device at the
nozzle end of the blasting hose; (3) ensuring, where possible, that only one
employee operates each blast nozzle; (4) installing guards to protect the
operator from high-speed particles; (5) conducting abrasive blasting in a
blasting enclosure or an area isolated from the workplace to reduce the
possibility of employees and others being struck by high-speed particles; and
(6) using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when blowing off with
30 psi (pounds per square inch) air.
Abrasive blasting operators and other employees in the blasting area can be
exposed to high-pressure hazards through contact with high-pressure air or water
streams, uncontrolled high-pressure hoses, and air or water leaks in the
equipment. Injuries can be very serious and include loss of sight and body parts
(e.g., fingers and hands). Preventive measures include the following:
- Controlled access to the blasting area;
- Use of a dead-man control on the blast nozzle;
- Use of metal nozzle and hose couplings;
- Use of hose-coupling safety locks and hose whip checks;
- Inspection of all hoses and connections prior to use; and
- Use of appropriate PPE.
Additional information may be found on the Shipyard eTool, under
Static electricity can be generated by abrasive blasting equipment, the surfaces
being blasted, and exhaust ventilation systems (fans and ductwork). Static
electricity can shock employees and cause fires and explosions by igniting
flammable/combustible atmospheres or materials. The buildup of static
electricity can be prevented through the proper use of bonding and grounding.
Additionally, blast hoses can be constructed with anti-static rubber linings or
fitted with a ground wire or similar mechanism to dissipate static electrical
charges. Additional information may be found on the
Shipyard Employment eTool.
Vibration and Other Ergonomic Hazards
Abrasive blasting operators are exposed to hand-arm vibration from the force of
the abrasive moving through the blast hose. Prolonged use of abrasive blasting
equipment can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the fingers and result in a
condition known as vibration syndrome (also known as vibration white finger and
Raynaud's disease). The signs and symptoms of vibration syndrome include
numbness, tingling, blanching (fingers turning pale and ashen), pain, and
flushing. In advanced cases, individuals lose their manipulative skills
(dexterity) and the ability to distinguish between hot and cold objects. If
exposure to vibration continues, skin necrosis and gangrene can occur.
Preventive measures for vibration syndrome include: (1) the use of
vibration-reduced equipment such as vibration-isolating handles incorporated
into blasting nozzles; (2) reducing the extent and duration of continuous
exposure to vibration through job rotation or more frequent breaks (e.g., a
10-minute break after each hour of continuous blasting); (3) frequent and
careful maintenance of blasting equipment according to manufacturers'
recommendations; and (4) the use of protective gloves to keep hands warm and dry
while on the job. Certain glove designs also reduce vibration.
Additional information on vibration and ergonomic hazards may be found on OSHA's
Ergonomics Safety and Health Topics Page.
Confined and enclosed spaces in vessels or vessel sections (such as cargo tanks
or holds, pump or engine rooms, storage lockers, and tanks containing or having
last contained hazardous substances) can contain dangerous atmospheres resulting
from oxygen deficiency or enrichment and flammable, combustible, toxic,
corrosive or irritating substances. Abrasive blasting is a spark-producing
operation that is considered "hot" work unless it is physically isolated from a
flammable or combustible atmosphere. Abrasive blasting in confined and enclosed
spaces can also introduce additional air contaminants such as heavy metals from
the abrasive media and/or the surfaces blasted. Shipyard employers engaged in
abrasive blasting in confined and enclosed spaces must meet OSHA requirements
for confined space work (29 CFR 1915 Subpart B), surface preparation and
preservation (29 CFR 1915 Subpart C) (not limited to confined/enclosed spaces),
and ventilation. (29 CFR 1910.94).
In addition, other hazards inherent in the work performed in confined and
enclosed spaces may include limited access, ladders, scaffolds, electrical
circuits, unguarded openings and others. Such hazards must be addressed and
specific safety practices followed to ensure that spaces are entered and worked
in safely. Additional information on confined spaces can be found on the OSHA
Confined Spaces Safety and Health Topics Page, or in the
Working at Heights
Falls are a leading cause of fatalities in shipyards. Fall hazards for abrasive
blasters include: (1) surges from drops in pressure in the hose line that can be
sufficient enough to throw the blaster from the work surface; (2) shocks from
static electricity that might cause the blaster to lose balance and fall when
working at heights; and (3) blasting hoods that visually restrict the vision of
Preventive measures include: (1) protecting the blaster with proper fall
protection when adequate protection against falling cannot be provided by guard
railings; (2) bonding and grounding blasting equipment and wearing appropriate
gloves and boots to insulate from static electricity; and (3) working from
scaffolds, not from ladders. Other preventive measures include covering or
guarding holes and deck openings, providing adequate lighting so that blasters
can see the physical limits of the work surface, and all control devices, and
frequently removing abrasive media from all horizontal surfaces on staging or
other elevated work surfaces.
Additional information on fall protection can be found in OSHA's
Employment eTool, under
Slips and Trips
Abrasive blasting operators are exposed to tripping hazards and slippery work
surfaces. High levels of airborne dust can also obstruct the blaster's vision.
Preventive measures for slips and trips can be found in OSHA's
Employment eTool, under
Abrasive blasting operators are at risk of heat-related illnesses due to the PPE
that is worn (blast helmets and protective suits, sometimes for long periods of
time), the work activity or physical demands of the job, and environmental
conditions (i.e., temperature, humidity, and air movement). Additional
information on reducing the risk of heat-related illnesses can be found on the
Heat Stress Safety and Health Topics Page.
(1) EPA, 1997. EPA Office of Compliance Sector Notebook Project: Profile of the
Shipbuilding and Repair Industry [2 MB PDF, 135 pages]. Environmental Protection Agency,
Office of Compliance, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance,
Washington, D.C. Document No. EPA/310-R-97-008. November.
(2) Brantley, C.D., and P. C. Reist, 1994. Abrasive Blasting with Quartz Sand:
Factors Affecting the Potential for Incidental Exposure to Respirable Silica.
American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal, 55(10): 946-952.
(3) NSRP, 2000. Cost-Effective Clean Up of Spent Grit. The National Shipbuilding
Research Program. U.S. Department of the Navy, Carderock Division, Naval Surface
Warfare Center in cooperation with National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San
Diego, California. NSRP 0570, N1-95-4. December 15.
(4) Burgess, W.A., 1991. Potential Exposures in the Manufacturing Industry
Their Recognition and Control. In Patty's Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology, 4th
Edition, Volume I, Part A. G.D. Clayton and F.E. Clayton (eds.). New York: John
Wiley and Sons, pp.595-598.
(5) NIOSH, 1998.
Evaluation of Substitute Materials for Silica Sand in Abrasive
Blasting. Prepared for the US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health by KTA-Tator, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
(6) NFESC, 1996. Recycling and Reuse Options for Spent Abrasive Blasting Media
and Similar Wastes. Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center, Port Hueneme,
California. Technical Memorandum TM-2178-ENV, April.
(7) MSU, 1999.
Abrasive Blasting - Preventing Silicosis. User's Manual. Appendix I: Silica Substitutes List.
Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine, Department of Medicine,
Occupational and Environmental Medicine. April 30 (revised).
(8) NIOSH, 1992a.
Request for Assistance in Preventing Silicosis and Deaths from
Sandblasting. US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health
Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 92-102. August.
(9) EPA, 1995.
Emission Factor Documentation for AP-42, Section 13.2.6, Abrasive
Blasting. In Compilation of Air Pollutant Emission Factors, AP-42, Fifth
Edition, Volume I: Stationary Point and Area Sources. Environmental
Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Emission Factor
and Inventory Group, Research Triangle Park. January.
(10) Queensland Government, 1999. Abrasive Blasting Industry Code of Practice.
Department of Employment, Training and Industrial Relations, Division of
Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland Government, Australia. June 22, 1999.
Additional Sources of Information
ACGIH, 2001b. Industrial Ventilation - A Manual of Recommended Practice. 24th
Edition. American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. Cincinnati: ACGIH.
Environment Canada, 1995. Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Ship and Boat
Building and Repair Industry in British Columbia. Fraser Pollution Abatement
Program, Environment Canada, North Vancouver, British Columbia. DOE FRAP
1995-14. August 30.
EPA, 1991. Guides to Pollution Prevention: The Marine Maintenance and Repair
Industry. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and
Development, Risk Reduction Engineering Laboratory and Center for Environmental
Research Information. EPA/625/7-91/015. October.
A Guide for Ship Scrappers
- Tips for Regulatory Compliance [2 MB PDF, 261 pages]. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Federal Facilities Enforcement
Office. EPA 315-B-00-001. Summer 2000.
Kura, B., S. Lacoste, and P.V. Patibanda. [No date] Multimedia Pollutant
Emissions from the Shipbuilding Facilities. This paper presents information
obtained from a University of New Orleans research project entitled "Integrated
Environmental Management Plan for Shipbuilding Facilities."
Occupational Respiratory Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No.
NIOSH Alert - Preventing Lead Poisoning in Construction Workers.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 91-116a. April.
Request for Assistance in Preventing Silicosis and Deaths in
Construction Workers. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public
Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 96-112.
NIOSH, 2002. Final Survey Report: Ergonomics Interventions for Ship Repair
Processes at Todd Pacific Shipyards Corporation, Seattle, Washington. U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health, Division of Applied Research and Technology. Report No. EPHB 229-18c.
NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No.
Pollution Prevention at Shipyards
- A Northwest Industry Roundtable
Report. Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, Seattle,
Washington. May 13.
Small Shipyards and Boatyards in Oregon: Environmental Issues & P2
Opportunities. A Northwest Industry Roundtable Report. Pacific Northwest
Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC) Roundtable Discussion, Coos Bay,
Oregon. November 10.
OSHA Shipyard Employment eTool.
Mechanical Removers (under Ship Repair - Surface Prep). U.S. Department of
Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA Silica eTool:
Taking Action to Protect Against Silica.
U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Stephenson, D., T. Spear, M. Seymour, and L. Cashell, 2002. Airborne Exposure to
Heavy Metals and Total Particulate During Abrasive Blasting Using Copper Slag
Abrasive. Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 17(6): 437-443.
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