OSHA Initiates Program to Combat Silica Exposure in Engineered Stone Industry
Workers face severe health risks from silica dust exposure.
- By Robert Yaniz Jr.
- Sep 26, 2023
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced an OSHA initiative aiming to improve enforcement and compliance in the engineered stone fabrication and installation industries.
“Many workers in the engineered stone industry are experiencing illnesses so severe that they’re unable to breathe — much less work a full shift — because of their exposure to silica dust,” OSHA Assistant Secretary Doug Parker said in a Sept. 25 release announcing the program.
Parker specifically mentioned one case in which a 27-year-old worker in California developed a debilitating and often fatal lung disease called silicosis after silica dust exposure. As a result, he now relies on an oxygen tank and cannot financially support his wife and three young children.
This new initiative builds on OSHA’s existing National Emphasis Program for Respirable Crystalline Silica. Its primary goal is to target industry employers, ensuring adherence to vital safety standards. The program introduces methods to prioritize federal OSHA inspections, focusing on areas where workers encounter elevated silica dust levels.
OSHA and NIOSH have identified silica dust exposure as a significant health hazard. Workers in various stages of stone processing—including manufacturing, finishing and installation—are at risk. Inhalation of minuscule crystalline silica particles can result in silicosis, and silica dust exposure can also trigger chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or kidney disease.
As part of this new initiative, OSHA is distributing fact sheets on dust control methods and safer work practices for engineered stone manufacturing, finishing and installation operations to affected employers and stakeholders to continue spreading awareness about this concern.
Robert Yaniz Jr. is the Content Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.