What is silica dust? Is silica dust dangerous? Can silica dust be controlled? Does silica dust impact your home? Is it important to consider when planning a patio project at your home?

In the landscape/hardscape industry, silica dust has been a hot topic the last years. OSHA set new standards for exposure to silica dust, and many contractors are still struggling to comply. But how does it apply to you as a homeowner?

dust free backyard

Silica is the Most Common Element on Earth

And frankly, it’s all over your property! It can be found in soil, concrete, pavers, sand, stone, etc. It’s everywhere. That doesn’t mean that it’s dangerous in its natural form, though! Silica does become a hazard when materials containing silica are cut, ground, crushed, etc. Respirable crystalline silica is the finest particles of silica in the dust generated when processing, cutting, or grinding those materials. These tiny particles become embedded in lungs and create scar tissue for years to come. This form of silica is primarily a hazard to those with long-term exposure.

dusty paver cutting

Is respirable crystalline silica dust a hazard to my home, my pets, my family?

The short answer is no, it likely is not hazardous to the health of you, your family, or pets. Generally, it becomes a hazard with repeat exposure. As with many airborne hazards, the elderly and those already suffering from lung or respiratory issues are the most at risk. Certainly, it is not “healthy” to breathe any amount of dust containing silica!

The silica dust generated during cutting and grinding dust is very fine. It drifts everywhere. It will plaster the side of your house. Drift over your car. Seep under leaking door seals. All of these are definitely a nuisance! Cleanup requires some consideration. If using a vacuum indoors, it should be HEPA filtered to prevent returning the dust to your home. Since the dust is abrasive, painted surfaces should be cleaned with care. Handwashing a car to remove dust from cutting concrete can create hundreds of tiny scratches.

dusty car covered in silica dust

You’ve Decided to Build a Patio or Outdoor Living Area

Is it really that important to ask your hardscape contractor whether he’s using silica dust control?

If they aren’t, you will need to deal with the nuisance of dust around your home. You’ll have to keep your windows and doors shut. And you might STILL have silica dust in your home! Your neighbors may complain as well if the dust is drifting to their home. And finally… if someone reports the contractor to OSHA, they could be cited and shut down for days or weeks, or even go out of business. Contractors near Pittsburg were assessed fines ranging from $25,000 to $200,000 in 2018.

Your project could face lengthy delays while the contractor scrambles to develop safety programs and purchase dust control systems…. or in an extreme case, be completely abandoned if the contractor goes out of business!

Some contractors use water to control Respirable crystalline silica dust. The water helps extinguish the cloud of dust, but it makes a mess on the patio while working.

At Willow Gates Landscaping, we believe that cutting wet is not the best solution for our team and for our clients. That is why we have invested in silica dust vacuum technology to protect our workers, your property and your health.