Three Steps to Working Safely with Silica

Many construction materials contain silica. When these materials are cut, drilled, or otherwise disturbed workers may be exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust. Breathing this dust can lead to serious, even fatal illnesses. A new website developed by CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training is making it easier for contractors to reduce silica dust exposures and protect their employees and bystanders. The website,, contains information on the hazard, training materials, examples of what’s working, regulatory requirements, and -- at the request of contractors -- a free online planning tool.

The Create-A-Plan tool walks users through conducting a job hazard analysis, selecting appropriate controls, and creating a job-specific plan to eliminate or reduce silica hazards in just three easy steps.

Step 1 – Select Materials & Tasks
Select the silica-containing materials that will be used on the job. For each material selected, a list of tasks is generated – you can select as many combinations of materials and tasks as appropriate for your project. If you are not sure if a material contains silica, additional information is provided on what to look for on the material’' label, how to have a sample tested for silica, where to find the material’s safety data sheet, and data published on the silica content of selected construction materials.

Step 2 – Select Controls
All of the material-task combinations selected in Step 1 automatically appear in Step 2 along with lists of control options for each and examples of commercially available versions of the controls (the default control is respiratory protection). Users interested in learning more about a control option have access to videos of the control being used, the manufacturer, information on how the control addresses the hazard through CPWR's Construction Solutions and eLCOSH websites, and/or related information from government agencies and other resources. If you are not sure which control to use, there are three options for learning more, including information on air monitoring, OSHA’s free and confidential on-site consultation program, and access to published studies.

Step 3 – Complete Your Silica Control Plan
This area is automatically populated with the information entered in Steps 1 and 2, and includes space and information for other items that should be considered in a silica control plan, such as:

  • The company name, project name and description, and who is completing the plan
  • The person responsible for ensuring the plan is carried out
  • Training to be provided to workers and others
  • Housekeeping activities
  • Medical surveillance
  • Other considerations

Each item has a "learn more" option that provides information on the types of information that could be included. When you are done filling in the portions of Step 3 that apply to your project, a silica control plan tailored for your job is generated that can be printed, emailed, or saved as a PDF. It can also be used as a job-specific tool box talk. At the request of users who often use the same material-task-control combinations on multiple projects, CPWR is adding a new feature to the site that will allow you to edit a saved plan. This new feature will be available in June.

CPWR updates the website regularly with new information on controls, articles, regulatory efforts, training materials, and research. Check out this new site and free planning tool and see how it can help you and your company work safely with silica.

CPWR's research program is funded through grant OH009762 from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH.

Posted by Eileen Betit on Apr 26, 2013