Abrasive Blasting

a worker wearing protective equipment while abrasive blasting

Abrasive blasting may have several hazards associated with it at any given time. Abrasive blasting is more commonly known as sandblasting since silica sand has been a commonly used material as the abrasive, although not the only one always used. Abrasive blasting entails accelerating a grit of sand sized particles with compressed air to provide a stream of high velocity particles used to clean metal objects such as steel structures or provide a texture to poured concrete. This process typically produces a large amount of dust from the abrasive, anything on the substrate being abraded, and/or the substrate itself.

If the process is not completely isolated from the operator, abrasive blasting dusts are a very great health risk. Respirable dust from silica sand and other abrasive materials pose a risk to the lungs. Where abrasive blasting is used to remove lead-based paint on the steel infrastructure of bridges, it can generate particles of lead that pose a risk to the nervous system. In addition to potential health hazards, abrasive blasting can pose safety risks as well. Cleaning steel while working from scaffolding introduces a fall risk and from within industrial tanks a confined space risk. The abrasive stream itself can cause physical harm to the operator or anyone close by. There are NIOSH guidelines and OSHA regulations addressing many aspects of abrasive blasting including such things as proper airline length, and quality of breathing air provided to the abrasive blasting respirator. There is much to know about abrasive blasting and the associated hazards in order to consistently perform the task safely.

NIOSHTIC-2 Search

NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Abrasive Blasting
NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.

NIOSH Resources

The links to external web sites included below are provided for informational purposes only. Citation should not be taken as endorsement by NIOSH of the web site content nor of the sponsoring organization.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon Monoxide Hazards from Small Gasoline Powered Engines

Criteria for Abrasive Blast Cleaning Operations

Engineering Control

Falls From Elevations

Lead Poisoning

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Respiratory (Lung) Disease

Respiratory Protection

Substitutes for Silica Sand Use

U.S. Governmental Resources

The links to external web sites included below are provided for informational purposes only. Citation should not be taken as endorsement by NIOSH of the web site content nor of the sponsoring organization.

Abrasive Blaster Dies of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities (IIF) programExternal

Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety & Health

Inadvertent Connection of Air-line Respirators to Inert Gas Supplies: OSHA Safety and Information Bulletin External

OSHA Abrasive Blasting in Shipyard EmploymentExternal

OSHA Respiratory ProtectionExternal

OSHA Safety and Health Topic, LeadExternal

OSHA Technical Link on Confined SpacesExternal

OSHA Technical Link on FallsExternal

OSHA Training Materials for SilicosisExternal

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration: Safety and Health on Bridge Repair, Renovation, and Demolition ProjectsExternal

Non-U.S. Governmental Resources

The links to external web sites included below are provided for informational purposes only. Citation should not be taken as endorsement by NIOSH of the web site content nor of the sponsoring organization.

A Review of Engineering Control Technology for Exposures Generated During Abrasive Blasting OperationsExternal
Flynn MR, Susi P. 2004. A Review of Engineering Control Technology for Exposures Generated During Abrasive Blasting Operations. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 1(10):680-687.

American National Standards InstituteExternal

The Center for Construction Research and Training (formerly the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights)External

Control Technology for Crystalline Silica Exposures in Construction: Wet Abrasive BlastingExternal
Mazzuckelli L, Golla V, Heitbrink W. 2004. Case Studies. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 1(3):26-32.

Ergonomics of Abrasive Blasting: A Comparison of High Pressure Water and Steel ShotExternal
Rosenberg B, Yuan L, Fulmer S. Ergonomics of Abrasive Blasting: A comparison of high pressure water and steel shot, Applied ErgonomicsVolume 37, Issue 5, September 2006, Pages 659-667.

Health and Safety Executive – COSHH Essentials in Construction: SilicaCdc-pdfExternal
A series of informative guides that describe various processes and tasks which may generate respirable crystalline silica. These guides examine work tasks in 8 different industries, and describe areas to reduce exposure to workers. The HSE-UK developed the guides, which were then translated into Spanish by NIOSH.
en EspañolExternal

Laborer’s Health and Safety Fund of North AmericaExternal

Michigan State University – Abrasive Blasting, Preventing SilicosisExternal

Mount Sinai-Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine – Guides for Managing Lead and Silica Control Programs in ConstructionExternal

The National Safety CouncilExternal

Stop Silicosis in Sandblasters Use Silica SubstitutesExternal
New Jersey Occupational Health and Surveillance Program

WorkSafe Health & Safety Centre for ConstructionExternal

Page last reviewed: April 26, 2011