Silica Dust Removal

When: Feb 2020

Location: North Fitzroy, Victoria

Client: Modus

Job value: $35k

Brief:
North Fitzroy Primary School were concerned about dust that had accumulated in their loft space migrating into the classrooms below. The dust was tested and identified as silica with traces of heavy metal.

Breathing in silica dust can be harmful because the small size of the particles allows them to penetrate deep into the lungs and cause damage to lung tissue over time. This made safe removal a top priority.

Challenges:
Similar to asbestos, silica dust is at its most dangerous when disturbed as it can become airborne. We needed to use great care to ensure the safety of GMA staff whilst also ensuring we didn’t spread any silica dust into the classrooms below.

Silica Dust Removal
Silica Dust Removal
Silica Dust Removal

What is Silica Dust?

Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in stone, rock, sand, gravel, and clay. All of which common ingredients in concrete, bricks, mortar, and tiles.

Silica dust is then created when the product is cut, drilled, ground, or sanded. It can also build up naturally over time due to degradation.

Where is Silica Dust most often found?

Outside of construction, demolition and mining sites, silica dust is often found in places where dust can settle and build up over time. This is especially common under flooring or in loft spaces. Common ways silica dust can find its way into these areas are:

Air infiltration: Nearby Construction, renovation, or demolition can generate silica dust. Once airborne it can then travel and enter via cracks or gaps in other structures.

HVAC systems: Silica dust can be carried into roof or floor spaces through heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, especially if the systems are not properly maintained and filtered.

Runoff: Silica dust that accumulates on a roof, can be carried by rainwater runoff into gutters, downspouts, or other openings.

Degradation: Over time bricks and cement can degrade due to wear and tear or aging, this can result in a localised silica dust build up.

How do we safely remove Silica Dust?

We opt to use the same amount of care when removing silica dust as we do asbestos. It is vital that we are able to keep the silica dust contained and avoid contaminating any nearby areas.

Once we are confident we have the area secured, we use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuums and wet cleaning methods to ensure the dust is removed safely.

If you suspect you have silica dust on your premises, never attempt to remove it yourself. Although silica dust is not as well known as asbestos, it can be just as dangerous when inhaled.

All onsite GMA staff are fully trained, wear appropriate PPE and are equipped to remove silica dust safely.

When is the site safe to open?

Before clearing the site for reentry, we use a third-party hygienist to ensure air quality and the absence of harmful airborne particles.

We also wrap and secure all contaminated material and transport it off site to an approved landfill.

We were happy to get the green light from the hygienist and the kids were able to get back to their classes without further delay.