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Abrasive blasting is a proven and extremely effective method for removing a wide range of substances and cleaning surfaces. Abrasive cleaning is the function of blasting a high-speed abrasive material against a surface for a high-impact clean that can’t be achieved through standard methods. It can be used for the removal of scale, rust corrosion or paint, the removal of residue film, slag, oxides and discolouration, as well as cleaning and de-burring.

It’s commonplace task on many worksites and there are hazards associated with the process. Extreme caution should be taken to ensure all legislative requirements are met and workers are kept safe.

Here are some tips to make sure operators and other employees remain safe:

Use a work permit

Consider making the acquisition of an approved Work Permit mandatory for any abrasive blasting work.

As there are different methods available, other than abrasive blasting, the issuer of the Work Permit can consider if it is feasible to use a less hazardous method in lieu of abrasive blasting.

Nominate special precautions in the work permit for any abrasive blasting work that presents additional hazards. These could include the following:

  • Confined spaces
  • Outside designated enclosures
  • Of surfaces coated with lead-based paint
  • Where personnel may be exposed to harmful dusts

Use blasting enclosures

Abrasive blasting work should be carried out within designated, specially designed, and constructed enclosures, which must be in accordance with specific legislative requirements.

Where abrasive blasting work has to be performed outside designated enclosures, exclusion zones with signage and barriers should be established.

Provide adequate ventilation

All other areas where such work may be carried out should be effectively ventilated with equipment of sufficient capacity to extract all dust produced by the abrasive blasting operation.

Deal with static electricity

Arrangements should also be in place for the safe discharge of static electricity resulting from the blasting operation (e.g. from blasting nozzles).

Ensure personnel are trained

+Personnel who are required to carry out abrasive blasting work should be trained in all the health and safety aspects of this work. Where work is carried out within an enclosure, precautions should also be taken to ensure all doors are closed to prevent dust escaping to unventilated areas.

Young persons should not be involved in abrasive blasting work.

Materials containing more than 1% of crystalline silica should not be used for abrasive blasting. These include:

  • Silica sand
  • River sand
  • Beach sand
  • Other types of white sand

Materials which may be used as substitutes for silica include:

  • Garnet
  • Crushed glass
  • Metal shot
  • Steel grit
  • Aluminium oxide
  • Granulated plastic

All personnel carrying out abrasive blasting work or present at a location where such work is performed, should use the appropriate personal protective equipment. These normally include both protective clothing and respiratory equipment.

Health Assessment and Surveillance

Personnel required to carry out abrasive blasting work should undergo a health assessment to determine their suitability for the work. In addition, any such personnel should also be placed under medical surveillance aimed at identifying early symptoms of any adverse effect on their health.

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