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.