Don’t Bite the Dust | Dangers of Respirable Crystalline Silica

Approximately 2 million U.S. workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their work environment. Respirable crystalline silica is present in a variety of occupations and industries, and exposure is common for workers who use materials such as stone, rock, block mortar, brick, concrete and industrial sand. Inhalable silica dust can be created when sawing, cutting, grinding, drilling, or crushing these materials.

It’s important to recognize the hazards of silica exposure and implement measures to limit exposure. Respirable crystalline silica exposure has been associated with the development of many adverse health conditions, including lung cancer, silicosis, pulmonary tuberculosis, kidney disease, and airways diseases.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has regulations for workplace exposure to crystalline silica for general industry, construction, and shipyard employment. OSHA has an established Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) and requires hazard communication training for exposed workers. A respirator protection program is also a requirement until engineering controls are implemented. OSHA has also proposed two new crystalline silica standards to further improve worker protection.

Engineering controls, administrative actions, and personal protective equipment can all be used to minimize the effects of silica exposure. As examples, silica substitution, isolating the exposure source, ventilation systems, limiting exposure time, providing showers, proper respiratory protection and protective clothing can all help limit the crystalline silica hazards in the workplace.

For additional information on crystalline silica exposure, see the OSHA Fact Sheet or an overview of OSHA’s Proposed Crystalline Silica Rule.

Date Posted: 04-17-2015
Tags: osha safety topics, osha safety training, osha workplace safety, respirable crystalline silica, silica dust, silica exposure,
Categories: OSHA Safety,