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Allergic reactions to organic blasting material

What is the potential risk?

When used as abrasive blasting media, organic materials are generally considered safer than silica sand or metal blasting media. Examples of organic materials include walnut and other crushed nut shells, corn cob, fruit kernels, and rice hulls. For workers who have allergies to these materials, however, abrasive media made from them can be a health hazard. A worker who has an allergy to the blasting media and is present during or after abrasive blasting may inhale, touch, or ingest particles that trigger an allergic reaction. This reaction could be serious or fatal.

Which industries may be at risk?

Blasting media made with organic materials are used in different applications, including the following:
  • Blast cleaning of turbines and aircraft engines
  • Deburring, deflashing, and finishing operations
  • Paint stripping and coatings removal
  • Deflashing components in electronics industries
  • Air blasting, wheel blasting, and tumbling operations
  • Porosity enhancement for grinding wheels and ceramics in burn-out applications

How can I reduce the risk in my workplace?

As an employer, you need to know if there is the potential for the risk identified in this advisory to be present in your workplace. It’s your responsibility to regularly inspect your workplace and ensure that your safety procedures and practices control the risk. The following information highlights some of the sections of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation that are most relevant to the risk. This includes requirements in Parts 5 and 12. Section 5.2 of the OHS Regulation requires the following:
  • Potentially hazardous chemicals are identified.
  • The health and safety precautions needed to protect the safety of workers are clearly communicated.
  • Written work procedures are prepared to eliminate or minimize the risk of exposure, including procedures for the proper handling and cleanup of hazardous chemicals.
  • Supervisors and workers are trained to follow these procedures.
Workplace exposure to potentially allergenic blasting materials can be reduced by doing the following:
  • Identify the use of potentially allergenic organic blasting materials during pre-job planning and in the scope-of-work documentation.
  • Inform workers of the risk and ask them to identify if they are allergic to these materials. These workers may need an accommodation and removal from the site during blasting operations.
  • Post signs identifying the hazard during blasting operations and cleanup.
  • Secure the blasting site against unauthorized entry by unprotected workers.

Publication Date: Dec 2019 Asset type: Risk Advisory Reference: RA 2019-01