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OSHA Aims to Reduce Silica Exposure in Several Industries

Sep 26, 2023

OSHA has launched a new initiative to enhance enforcement and provide compliance assistance to protect workers in the engineered stone fabrication and installation industries.

The initiative will supplement OSHA's current national emphasis program for respirable crystalline silica by focusing enforcement efforts to make sure employers are following required safety standards and providing workers with necessary protections. It establishes procedures for prioritizing federal OSHA inspections to identify and ensure prompt abatement of hazards in covered industries where workers face exposure to high levels of silica dust.

Silica dust exposure is a known health hazard for workers involved in manufacturing, finishing and installing natural and manufactured stone, which includes man-made, engineered artificial or cultured types.

When inhaled, very small crystalline silica particles expose workers to the risk of silicosis, an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. Exposure can also lead to chronic pulmonary or kidney diseases.

Industries subject to the prioritized programmed inspections include those engaged in cut stone and stone product manufacturing as well as brick, stone and related construction material merchant wholesalers. A July 2023 study by the American Medical Association underscores the dangers for workers in these industries. The "Silicosis Among Immigrant Engineered Stone Countertop Fabrication Workers in California" study cited 52 male patients diagnosed with silicosis caused by occupational exposure to respirable silica dust from engineered stone. Of these patients, 20 suffered progressive massive fibrosis, 11 needed lung transplants and 10 died due to their exposures.

As part of the initiative, OSHA is sending affected employers and stakeholders resources including fact sheets on dust control methods and safer work practices for engineered stone manufacturing, finishing and installation operations.

Learn more about crystalline silica on OSHA's website.


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