The first sandblasting cabinet

First sandblasting cabinet, with rudimentary dust extraction -1920

From the 1870s to the late 1910s, sandblasting was carried out in open spaces, with little to no operator protection from the large amounts of silica dust it generated. Silica inhalation poses an extreme health risk, with sustained long-term exposure causing silicosis, a debilitating lung condition. Silica dust inhalation has also been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer and the development of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). As a result, in 1918, an innovation that aimed to protect workers from silica dust swept the industry: the first sandblasting cabinet. A screen protected the operator, and an exhaust fan drew away particulate from the operator’s face. However, the risk of silica dust inhalation was ever-present.