Although respirable crystalline silica dangers have been known for more than 80 years, silica dust has only recently been recognized as a major health hazard. Today, silica is frequently referred to in safety circles as “the new asbestos.” Silica dust is 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, harmful when inhaled, and can easily be breathed in without someone’s knowledge. Breathing in very small, respirable, crystalline silica particles causes multiple diseases, including silicosis, an incurable lung disease that leads to disability and death. Respirable crystalline silica also causes lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease.
Typical work activities that can generate respirable silica dust particles include:
- Composite (engineered or manufactured) stone countertop fabrication and installation
- Excavation, earth moving, and drilling plant operations
- Clay and stone processing machine operations
- Paving and surfacing activities
- Mining, quarrying, and mineral ore treating processes
- Construction activities
- Brick, concrete, or stone cutting, especially when using dry methods
- Abrasive blasting – blasting agents should not contain greater than one percent of crystalline silica
- Foundry casting
- Concrete or masonry angle grinding, jack hammering, and chiseling
- Gas and oil well hydraulic fracturing
- Pottery making.
Top Three Most Common Silica-Related OSHA Violations
- Failure to conduct worker respirable crystalline silica exposure assessments.
- Failing to adhere to OSHA’s required engineering and work control methods and respiratory protection (See Table 1).
- Failing to complete a written exposure control plan.
The Cost of Not Complying
OSHA began enforcing the silica rule in the construction industry in June 2018. Since then, hundreds of fines have been issued, with the largest identified being more than $300,000 for a highway contractor in Virginia. This year, Buffalo New York Zoo was fined $45,000 for exposing workers to silica dust during demolition work. Most silica-related citations fall under the OSHA serious violation category.
Visit this OSHA site and ensure you are implementing and following the outlined control measures on a consistent basis.
RETTEW’s Safety Consulting professionals can assist you with silica industrial hygiene sampling, developing prevention programs, or training your employees. Contact Kristen Morgret, CSP, at 800.738.8395 to schedule a consultation.
Safety training and consulting are only some of RETTEW’s 600+ services. Our safety team works hand in hand with engineers, scientists, project managers, and other technical experts at places such as manufacturing facilities, drill pads, and commercial construction sites. We are well respected in many industries and known for ensuring workers and equipment remain safe, which keeps your projects on track and your bottom line growing.