OSHA, NIOSH red flag silica exposure in manufactured stone value chain

Sources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration; CP staff

A joint OSHA and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Hazard Alert defines dust control measures to protect workers from significant crystalline silica exposure during manufacturing, finishing, and installing natural and manufactured stone countertops, leading types of which bear 60–95 percent silica content.

The agencies have previously identified exposure to silica as a health hazard to stone countertop workers. Their alert follows reports of 70-plus cases in Spain and Israel where plant and site workers handling raw materials and finished slabs developed silicosis, an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. The OSHA/NIOSH document offers protection measures for countertop fabrication and installation worksites: monitoring the air to determine silica exposure levels; using engineering controls and safe work practices to control dust exposure; and, providing workers with respiratory protection when needed, plus training and information on silica hazards.

Crystalline silica is found in granite, sandstone, quartzite, various other rocks and sand. Workers who inhale very small crystalline silica particles are at risk for silicosis, symptoms of which can include shortness of breath, cough and fatigue. Airborne crystalline silica exposure also increased risk of developing lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.