Protecting the Workforce From Respirable Crystalline Silica

Occupational lung diseases are the umber one cause of work-related illnesses in the United States. As of 2016, there were approximately 426,000 workers in the construction equipment operation industry. Each one of these individuals need to beware of all kinds of dangers, especially respirable crystalline silica.

Respirable crystalline silica are 100 times smaller than sand and can rise up during cutting, grinding, sawing, crushing, drilling, and handling stone and other materials. These tiny particles can travel deep into someone’s lungs and cause silicosis, which is an incurable and potentially fatal lung disease. Additionally, respirable crystalline silica can cause lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.

Sadly, 2.3 million people are exposed to silica at work across the United States.

Thankfully, there is an emphasis on raising awareness of crystalline silica across the industrial workforce and how to manage its potential risks. According to OSHA, there is a national standard when it comes to using silica safely for construction jobs.

The standard (29 CFR 1926.1153) requires construction businesses to limit worker exposure to silica and take other steps to protect employees. The standard requires:

  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve silica exposure and method utilized to protect employees.
  • Keep records of employees’ medical exams and exposure to silica.
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose employees to silica, such as using compressed air without a proper ventilation system.
  • Designate a competent person to implement the required written silica exposure control plan
  • Offer medical exams, including lunch function tests and chest X-rays, every three years for workers who are required to wear a respirator for 30 days or more per year.
  • Train workers on the health risks of inhaling silica and ways to limit exposure.
  • “OSHA can provide compliance assistance through a variety of programs, including technical assistance regarding effective safety and health programs, workplace consultations, and training and education,” said an OSHA spokesperson.

    Additionally, every worker in the U.S., no matter his or her occupation, has the right to:

    • Working conditions that do not pose a rise of serious harm.
    • Receive training and information about workplace hazards, prevention methods, and various OSHA standards that apply to their field.
    • Review records of work-related illnesses and injuries.
    • File a confidential complaint requesting OSHA to inspect their workplace.