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Respiratory Protection: Understanding Pneumoconioses

January 25, 2021

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One of the most important benefits of respiratory protection awareness training is that it helps prevent pneumoconioses. Pneumoconioses are a family of lung diseases caused by inhaling certain harmful types of dust. When inhaled, these dust particles can scar a person’s lung tissue, making it difficult for them to breathe. These diseases are a major health hazard in many industries, having caused over 20,000 deaths in the US between 2005 and 2014. Most Each Pneumoconiosis is named for the type of dust that causes it.

Asbestosis – Asbestosis is caused by inhaling asbestos, a fireproof material commonly found in insulation, textile, and construction products. The use of asbestos has declined in recent years, but it’s still recognized as a legal building material in the US.

Silicosis – Silicosis is caused by silica dust, a byproduct of construction, mining, machining, and other manufacturing work. Silica dust can become airborne during many sanding, grinding, and cutting operations. Some common materials that contain silica particles include sand, concrete, brick, stone, and mortar.

Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis – Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis, as the name implies, is caused by coal dust. It is also known as “black lung disease.” The dangers of coal dust exposure are some of the most thoroughly researched.

An employee undergoing respiratory protection training
Once they take hold, these illnesses can require very expensive treatment, and they can never fully be cured. Using proper respiratory protection measures, however, they can be stopped before they become a problem. The first step to protecting employees from pneumoconioses is understanding the standards that OSHA has laid out concerning respiratory protection on the worksite. The second step is ensuring that all employees have been trained in the respiratory protection procedures they will need to use to stay safe and healthy. Employers and instructors who are interested in training employees in respiratory protection can view our updated training materials on the topic here.