Abrasive Blasting: More Than a Facebook Activity

Abrasive blasting is the process blasting a highly pressurized media against a surface to either smooth a rough surface, texture a smooth surface, remove surface contaminants.

There are many types of abrasive blasting, and many different materials (media) that get blasted including:

Mineral – Silica sand is a common mineral abrasive. It breaks up quickly, creating lots of dust, which can be harmful to the operator, especially without proper safety equipment.

Agricultural – This type of media is usually crushed nut shells or seeds. These are softer abrasives than something like Silica sand, and are generally used to avoid damaging the surface material when cleaning brick or stone. Often used for removing graffiti without damaging the wall.

Synthetic – Including corn and wheat starch, sodium bicarbonate and dry ice, these are considered soft abrasives used to avoid damaging the surface material, much like agricultural media. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is also called “soda blasting” is commonly used due to the friability of the material (meaning it breaks away easily, leaving the new, clean surface with very little clean up required).

Metallic – As the name indicates, the media in this type of blasting is metal. Generally either steel or stainless steel, also at times is copper, aluminum or zinc shot. The latter three metals are more expensive in general, and thus used less often. These types of blasts often product sparks or light on impact.

Safety when Abrasive Blasting

There are numerous potential risks with abrasive blasting, not only the dust and inhalants but potential for dangerous projectile injuries, burns, heat exhaustion, exposure to excessive noise as well as the general dangers of using enterprise grade machines.

Recommend Safety Equipment includes:

  • Air-Supply – Workers should have access to a Grade-D air supply to protect against hazardous gases.
  • Positive pressure blast hood or helmet – Typically the helmet or mask will have a ballistics grade lens with ability to attach respirator or air-hose.
  • Hearing Protection – Ear muffs or plugs to combat the loud noise of the machines and blast.
  • Body Covering – The proper coverings typically include gloves, overalls, and a coat, generally made of heavy duty fabrics like leather or industrial strength canvas

Maybe you’ve been doing abrasive blasting for years at PPC and this is all old news for you! But for the rest of us, hopefully this article provided a bit of insight on some of the jobs that PPC provides to its clients.

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia byNational Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).