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Silica Exposures – OSHA Issues Hazard Alert for Workers Manufacturing and Installing Countertops

If you need silica exposures evaluation based on OSHA’s hazard alert for workers manufacturing and installing countertops discussed in this article call us at 973-366-4660 or email us at info@atlenv.com for details and a free estimate.

Written by Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President
March 28, 2020

Both OSHA and NIOSH have noted increases in cases of silicosis in workers manufacturing and installing countertops (http://www.osha.gov/newsrelease/trade-20150218.html) and the OSHA Regulation itself- General Industry-29CFR1910.1053 and Construction 29CFR1926.1153.

Countertops can be made of granite, sandstone, quartzite, and composites including sand. The dust created during the cutting, polishing, composite formation, and installation can subject workers to dangerous levels of crystalline silica—a highly abrasive dust particulate—and when inhaled can scar the lungs. The result can be shortness of breath, fatigue, cough, leading to silicosis—which can ultimately be fatal, also lung cancer, COPD, and kidney damage are the possible results of exposure to silica.

OSHA has set an exposure limit for the three (3) forms of crystalline silicaalpha quartz, tridymite, and cristobalite. The OSHA PEL is 50 ug/M3 with an Action Level of 25 ug/M3.

Silica Exposures Concern

If your organization is involved in making or installing countertops from stone or composite, you should have the process monitored by an industrial hygienist to ensure your workers are safe from the serious respiratory diseases that can be the result of exposure to respirable silica. The worker monitoring is important since we have found exposure above the Action Level even when cutting and polishing has been done with water to control dust.  Sampling the worker duplicates the OSHA Inspection Monitors method by evaluating a worker’s exposure to silica.

The industrial hygienist should also be able to assist in suggesting methods of dust control or worker protection to reduce the possibility of a silica-related disease and/or an OSHA citation.

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