Adobe Stock / kokliang1981
Adobe Stock / kokliang1981

Personal protective equipment (PPE) or NIOSH-approved face respirators, may not be the most cost-effective method of protecting workers from silica dust exposure. According to research conducted by members of the Occupational Cancer Research Center, Ryerson University, and the University of British Columbia in Canada, employing wet methods of dust suppression cost 50% less on average annually, compared to PPE. The annual cost is based on a cost benefit analysis that included prices for equipment and replacement filters. While wet methods of silica dust prevention aren't always applicable and the level of effectiveness may vary, it can easily be considered a best practice when choosing how to protect workers on a jobsite.

Emile Tompa, senior scientist and health and labor economist at the Institute for Work and Health (IWH), a not-for-profit organization that does research on worker injury and disability prevention, says the research incorporated the “productivity penalty” for both methods (based on U.S. research) that results when a worker’s ability to complete a task is hampered or slowed by the equipment.

While other prevention measures are employed — exhaust ventilation, for example — PPE and wet suppression were found to be the “most realistic” by the construction industry and health and safety authorities.

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