November 14, 2023

OSHA initiative on silica dust

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as “OSHA,” has launched an initiative to increase enforcement of stone-manufacturing regulations impacting manufacturing, construction, and countertop companies working with stone. OHSA is casting an eye on the fabrication and installation industries in an attempt to reduce health risks to employees. 

The new initiative is not a change in rules or regulations. It’s merely an increased effort to monitor and review businesses operating in this unique space. Essentially, OSHA will increase monitoring and enforcement efforts to ensure industry employers are maintaining a safe working environment. They will check more stone manufacturers and assembly companies to verify that all facilities are following safety standards, which includes providing workers with appropriate protections to reduce exposure to stone and silica dust.

The initiative sets a specific process that directs OSHA inspectors to identify safety violations and ensure quick resolution with their help. 

What is silica or silica dust?

According to OSHA’s website, crystalline silica (silica dust) are, “very small particles at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand you might find on beaches and playgrounds.” This dust is released when anyone cuts, saws, grinds, drills, or crushes stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar. In other words, silica is present during stonework fabrication and installation, including countertops.

Compliance assistance part of the OSHA initiative

It’s worth noting that monitoring facilities and enforcing safety regulations is not the only part of this initiative. Compliance assistance is also part of the effort. OSHA, it seems, doesn’t want to simply find violations and slap employers with penalties and fines; they want to help companies overcome issues and reach full compliance with OSHA standards. 

For example, OSHA has provided information on silica dust and safety standards for what they term “general industry” and the construction industry. These resources help employers verify that their practices are up to standard long before an OSHA inspection. 

Consumer Notice has more information and a guide on how to comply.

Health concerns on why monitor and reduce silica

The main cause of this initiative is a concern over silicosis. But that’s not the only issue or disease that could be caused by inhaling silica particles. OSHA indicates that workers who breathe silica particles have an increased risk of developing the following:

  • Silicosis, scarring of the lungs
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Kidney disease

According to the American Lung Association, roughly 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica at work; the vast majority (around 2 million) are construction workers. 

When does the ruling take effect? 

OSHA is setting a benchmark for inspections that begin immediately. According to a memorandum released by the organization, area offices in regions 1 through 8 (essentially everything except the West Coast and Pacific states and territories) will be required to complete at least 5 inspections within 12 months of the initiative launch. OSHA recommends that inspectors focus their efforts in high-concentration areas, such as industrial areas with high amounts of stone and masonry production. 

Who will be impacted? 

Eventually, any manufacturing or construction companies working with stone will be impacted. Right now, any employer in regions 1 through 8 who works with the manufacturing and installation of stone products could be impacted by this ruling. If you are an owner or manager in stone manufacturing or installation, all this means is that your chances of going through an OSHA inspection have increased. Companies that already maintain high standards of safety while reducing exposure to rock dust should see little to no impact.  

How to comply with OSHA standards

Even if you maintain high standards, it’s never a bad time to review your safety protocols and update your equipment. You’ll want to verify that your dust-reduction and mitigation efforts are up to OSHA requirements so your organization can coast through the inspection. Elevated Industrial Solutions can help with respirators and dust reduction.

One aspect you’ll want to review is the method for determining the amount of silica that workers are exposed to. This is an important phase of the new initiative, so make sure you have proper air monitoring and data collection before an inspector arrives

OSHA will also look at the methods for dust control and reduction. These methods may include water-spraying systems, using remote-controlled tools at impact sites, and access to hand-held tools equipped with shrouds and vacuums when wet methods are not available. They may also be looking for respirators and masks that reduce and remove silica from being inhaled.

Here to help with safety and more

We’re experts in countertops. That’s why we’ve chosen a mix of quality products from some of the best countertop vendors, such as Integra Adhesives and Alpha Professional Tools. But Elevated is also known for safety. We have a wide range of safety gear, including respirators, to help your company pass OSHA inspections and protect your employees.

Christopher Richmann
Author: Christopher Richmann
Kif Richmann is a professional writer and editor who has been creating content since 2011. With degrees in communication and journalism from The University of Iowa, Kif has been a full-time self-employed freelancer since 2014. Throughout his career, he has served numerous industries including manufacturing, real estate, technology, finance, healthcare, transportation, and education.
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