Tag Archive | "silica"


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Natural Stone Institute Debuts Silica & Slab Safety Certificate Program

Posted on 28 April 2020 by cradmin3

The Natural Stone Institute has announced the debut of a new safety resource for stone fabricators and distributors. The Silica & Slab Safety Certificate is an 8-hour online certificate that provides training material for silicosis prevention, slab handing and creating a safety program.

This program, comprised of 20 courses, is a combination of webinars, course readings, and related videos and documents. The program must be completed by one designated  safety manager. After earning the certificate, the safety manager can then administer courses to employees. Participants are encouraged to share this program with their insurance carriers to discuss potential discounts on premiums.

Natural Stone Institute Accreditation & Technical Manager Mark Meriaux commented: “Earning the Silica & Slab Safety Certificate is a way to show customers and vendors that you take safety education seriously. It shows that you value safety both within your company and to all that you have contact with outside your organization.”

The Silica & Slab Safety Certificate is free to current Natural Stone Institute members. There will be a $599 administrative fee for non-member participants.

You may also be interested in this article: Caesarstone Introduces Master of Stone Program

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Effective January 24, 2008,the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is implementing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to identify, reduce, and eliminate the health hazards associated with occupational exposure to crystalline silica.

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OSHA Revises National Emphasis Program to Reduce or Eliminate Worker Exposure to Silica

Posted on 10 March 2020 by cradmin

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established a revised National Emphasis Program (NEP) to identify and reduce or eliminate worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in general industry, maritime, and construction. The NEP targets specific industries expected to have the highest numbers of workers exposed to silica, and focuses on enforcement of the new silica standards, one for general industry and maritime (29 CFR § 1910.1053) and one for construction (29 CFR § 1926.1153). These standards became effective in June 2016, and construction employers were required to begin complying with their standard as of September 23, 2017, and general industry and maritime employers were required to begin complying with their standard as of June 23, 2018.

What changes were made to the NEP?

  • Revised application to the lower permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average in general industry, maritime, and construction;
  • Updated list of target industries, as listed in the appendix of the NEP; from this list, area offices will develop randomized establishment lists of employers in their local jurisdictions for targeted inspections;
  • Compliance safety and health officers will refer to current enforcement guidance for RCS inspection procedures;
  • All OSHA regional and area offices must comply with this NEP, but they are not required to develop and implement corresponding regional or local emphasis programs; and
  • State Plans must participate because of the nationwide exposures to silica.

OSHA will conduct 90 days of compliance assistance for stakeholders prior to beginning programmed inspections for the NEP.

Respirable crystalline silica consists of small silica particles that are generated by cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, and crushing materials such as stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar. Inhaling the dust created during these operations can cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For more information on the health effects from silica exposure, and how employers can protect workers, visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics webpage on Crystalline Silica.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights. 

You may also be interested in this article: OSHA Increases Maximum Penalties.

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Australia Silicosis

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Silicosis Scare Hits Australia, Calls for Bans

Posted on 10 February 2020 by cradmin

As of December 2019, confirmed cases of silicosis among countertop and construction workers rose to 260 across Australia, where countertops are known as benchtops, and some estimates have the cases at 350. The Daily Mail reports that Caesarstone was denied insurance coverage because of the silica content of its products, and some victims and lawmakers are calling for a ban of all quartz surfacing.

Because the cases have more than tripled over the last quarter of 2019 in Queensland, ABC News reports, silica dust is now more toxic than asbestos in Australia. According to Dr. Graeme Edwards, silica dust is five to six times more toxic than asbestos.

“Now that we’ve got bigger numbers, that figure is around 20 to 25 percent. So, between one in four and one in five people who’ve had extended exposure,” stated Edwards, speaking on the toxicity level. “It’s crudely of the order of five to six times more potent a problem.” Asbestos sits at 6 percent toxicity in Australia.

Even though Edwards believes silica is highly toxic, he does not support a total ban of materials including it because there is still insufficient evidence and, unlike asbestos, there are safe ways to handle silica. Laws are already in place to protect workers in Australia, but the problem is with enforcement.

“It is the failings of various parts of the system to apply the law that already exists,” said Edwards. “Every single case of silicosis is prima facie evidence of system failure. There was legislation already in existence to manage it but, clearly, it failed the workers of Australia.”

Braden Barnes, 34, is just one of those who has been newly diagnosed with silicosis in Australia, and he is outspoken in his support to ban products containing silica. His case of silicosis is so bad that he is no longer able to work after being in the business for more than a decade. In 2014, his illness was misdiagnosed, so he continued to work in the countertop fabrication industry.

“I kept going for a couple of years because we were starting to build a house, we just had a newborn,” said Barnes. “I know six of my friends that are being diagnosed. I know a few more that are in denial. They’ve built their life around the money they earn, so they don’t even want to get checked.”

One Australian law firm, Slater and Gordon, tells the Daily Mail that they have since a sharp spike in reports from countertop and construction workers that have now been diagnosed with silicosis.

“Under Australian law, manufacturers of products owe duties to consumers and end-users of these products to ensure that they are safe and that any risks they present are accompanied by appropriate warnings,” reads the company website.

Because of this sharp increase, the attorneys launched an investigation into the countertop fabrication industry last May. Shortly afterward, the filed a class-action lawsuit against major countertop fabricators.

“The point of the class action is to bring the manufacturers of the engineered stone to account for the very considerable injuries that the product is causing people,” stated Margaret Kent of Slater and Gordon.

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Silicosis Among Stone Fabricators More Widespread Than Previously Believed

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Silicosis Among Stone Fabricators More Widespread Than Previously Believed

Posted on 17 October 2019 by cradmin

At the end of September, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report showing that stone fabricators suffering from silicosis are more numerous than has previously been believed. A total of 18 cases of silicosis, including two fatalities have now been reported across four states: California, Colorado, Texas and Washington. In addition, fabrication associations and related organizations have issued warnings and have made available several resources to aid in the prevention of silicosis among workers.

Silicosis is a disabling, incurable lung disease that can be fatal, and it is caused by respirating crystalline silica, such as that found in engineered stone and other stone products. International incidents of silicosis in countertop fabricators were first reported several years ago, but only one case in the U.S. was reported at the time. All stone fabrication workers are at risk of contracting this disease, and the CDC claims that “additional efforts are needed to reduce exposures and improve disease surveillance.”

Silicosis is a preventable disease. When exposure controls, such as water feeds, local exhaust ventilation and respiratory protection, are used, exposure limits can fall well within OSHA standards. However, many small-scale shops do not implement these measures adequately because of limited expertise, awareness and investment in control technologies.

Soon after the report from the CDC was released, National Public Radio (NPR) did an expose on silicosis claiming that “workers are falling ill, even dying, after making kitchen countertops.” And since then, the International Surface Fabricators (ISFA) made silicosis its leading news story in its latest newsletter. Before the publication of the newsletter, however, ISFA put out its own information about complying with OSHAs new crystalline silica rule.

ISFA also has resources on crystalline silica and more starting at $88. In addition, help can be found through another association, the National Stone Institute.

For further information about silica, silicosis and the new OSHA standard, please refer to some of our previous articles, including the following:

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OSHA Requests Information on Table 1 of the Silica Standard for Construction

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OSHA Requests Information on Table 1 of the Silica Standard for Construction

Posted on 14 August 2019 by cradmin

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is requesting information and comment on Table 1 of the agency’s Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction. OSHA seeks information on additional engineering and work practice control methods to effectively limit exposure to silica for the equipment and tasks currently listed on Table 1. The agency is also requesting information about other construction equipment and tasks that generate silica that it should consider adding to Table 1, along with information about their associated engineering and work practice control methods.

In addition, OSHA is seeking comments about whether to revise paragraph (a)(3) of the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry to broaden the circumstances under which general industry and maritime employers would be permitted to comply with Table 1 of the silica standard for construction.

Information submitted will allow OSHA to consider new developments and enhanced control methods for equipment that generates exposures to silica, and provide additional data on exposures to silica from equipment and tasks using a variety of control methods under different workplace conditions. Expanding Table 1 to include additional engineering and work practice control methods, equipment, and tasks could provide employers with more flexibility and reduce regulatory burdens while maintaining protections for employees.

If information submitted in response to this request indicates that revisions to the silica standards are needed, the agency will then publish the proposed revisions in the Federal Register for public comment.

Comments must be submitted by October 14, 2019. Comments and materials may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, or by facsimile or mail. See the Federal Register notice for submission details.  

You may also be interested in this article about the OSHA Checklist.

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NIOSH Hosts Free Silica Safety Webinar

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NIOSH Hosts Free Silica Safety Webinar

Posted on 01 April 2019 by cradmin

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will be hosting a free silica safety webinar on Tuesday, May 14 at 11am PST. Designed for stone countertop fabrication employers, the webinar will describe the dangers of silica exposure, outline employer requirements to comply with OSHA’s Respirable Crystalline Silica Rule, and offer methods employers can use to protect workers.

During the webinar, representatives from OSHA, NIOSH, and the California Department of Public Health will provide information related to silica exposure, including health risks, methods to protect employees from silica dust, and OSHA requirements. Two Natural Stone Institute Accredited members, Jonathan Mitnick (CCS Stone) and David Scott (Slabworks of Montana) will provide practical tips on controlling worker exposure to silica dust and share the steps they took to ensure their shops were OSHA compliant.

Mark Meriaux, Accreditation and Technical Manager for the Natural Stone Institute commented: “It is important for fabricators to comprehend the health risks involved with silicosis, both personally and for employees, and to understand what can be done to minimize the risks. There is currently at least one documented case of silicosis in California tied to a fabrication shop, so now is the time to get this message out to fabricators. We look forward to working with NIOSH to share this message.”

To register for this free webinar, contact [email protected] or visit www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/NIOSH.

You may also be interested in the Latest OSHA Video on Controlling Silica

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Latest OSHA Video on Controlling Silica

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Latest OSHA Video on Controlling Silica

Posted on 25 March 2019 by cradmin

At the beginning of 2019, OSHA published a new video titled “Protecting Workers from Silica Hazards in the Workplace.” While it is only 5 minutes long and focuses on general silica protection vs. specific protection for stone/quartz fabrication shops, it is a decent primer for beginning to get an understanding of the problem.
With the recent (March 2019) cases of silicosis found at a countertop facility in Texas, OSHA is sure to be focusing more on the silica issue, which means there will likely be an increase in inspections related to this issue. However, worker safety, of course, should always be a concern for fabricators.

More information about crystalline silica in the countertop industry can be found at OSHA’s website.

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Several Reports of Silicosis in Texas Countertop Shop

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Several Reports of Silicosis in Texas Countertop Shop

Posted on 18 March 2019 by cradmin

In March 2019, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) received a report of an apparent cluster of multiple cases of silicosis among workers associated with occupational silica dust exposures that occurred during the manufacture, finishing and installation of stone countertops. DSHS is currently investigating these cases. There are no reported silica exposures to consumers from countertops in their homes.

Silicosis is an incurable, disabling, and often-fatal lung disease caused by inhalation of very fine particles of crystalline silica dust over a long period of time, which primarily occurs in workplace settings.

Occupational silicosis among workers in the engineered stone countertop industry is a rising concern in the world. The first case associated with engineered stone countertop fabrication in the United States was reported in Texas in 2014. Workers may be repeatedly exposed to dangerous levels of respirable silica dust when grinding, cutting, routing, drilling, or polishing engineered stone, granite and other stone materials containing crystalline silica during the fabrication process.

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour work day, for respirable crystalline silica exposure among workers in fabrication shops and other construction job sites (5,6).

To prevent occupational exposure to silica dust, guidelines require the following:

For employers:

  • Conduct air monitoring to identify the amount of silica dust workers are exposed to, and continue to monitor air levels to make sure the exposure level is below the PEL.
  • When possible, eliminate job tasks that can expose workers to silica dust above the PEL.
  • Reduce exposure by using dust control methods or engineering controls such as wet methods for cutting or grinding, local exhaust ventilation, wet sweeping, or high efficiency particulate (HEPA)-filtered vacuuming.
  • Use administrative controls and safe work practices such as a written exposure control plan and a designated competent person to implement it, and limit access to areas with exposure above the PEL.
  • Provide workers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as respirators and washable clothing when exposure control does not sufficiently reduce the amount of airborne silica dust.
  • Train all employees at the worksite on the health effects of silica exposure, workplace tasks that can expose them to silica dust, and how to control or prevent exposures.
  • Offer medical screenings to all who may be exposed to silica dust as per OSHA standards (5,6). Keep records of workers’ exposure to silica and medical screening results.

For workers:

  • Participate in trainings on silica exposure control and prevention including use of PPE.
  • Follow procedures and protocols to safely work around silica and reduce or prevent exposures.
  • Report any possible silica exposure to the employer, supervisor, or health care provider.

More information about crystalline silica in the countertop industry can be found at OSHA’s website.

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OSHA Posts New FAQs on Controlling Silica

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OSHA Posts New FAQs on Controlling Silica

Posted on 21 January 2019 by cradmin

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published two new lists of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on controlling respirable crystalline silica: one for the construction industry and another for general industries.

The new FAQs were developed through a concerted effort between OSHA, industry stakeholders and unions, and they are meant to provide guidance to both employers and employees. The FAQs offer concise information on the new silica standard and required controls, including the following:

  • Exposure assessments
  • Regulated areas
  • Methods of compliance
  • Communicating silica hazards

The questions and answers are organized by topic and include an introduction to provide background information on subject.

The FAQs can be read online through these links, and downloadable PDF versions are available on each page.

Construction Industry FAQ

General Industry FAQ

Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in the earth’s crust. Materials like sand, stone, concrete, and mortar contain crystalline silica, and it is also used to make a variety of products, including glass, pottery, ceramic, brick and engineered stone.

Respirable crystalline silica consists of very small particles more than 100 times smaller than ordinary sand. It is created when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling and crushing stone, rock, concrete, brick and mortar. Activities such as abrasive sandblasting, sawing, sanding, drilling, grinding mortar and manufacturing bricks, concrete blocks or stone countertops may expose workers to silica.

People who regularly inhale these very small crystalline silica particles are at increased risk of developing serious silica-related diseases, including the following:

  • Silicosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Kidney disease.

To protect against exposure to respirable crystalline silica, OSHA has issued two respirable crystalline silica standards: one for construction and the other for general industry and maritime.

For further assistance with the control of respirable crystalline silica, please contact your state OSHA office.

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Health & Safety Watch: OSHA Seeks Input on Silica Control Measures

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Health & Safety Watch: OSHA Seeks Input on Silica Control Measures

Posted on 18 October 2018 by cradmin

OSHA has announced that the administration is seeking input on the revised silica rule for the construction industry that went into effect last year. Specifically, OSHA wants information on the effectiveness of silica control measures that are not included in Table 1: Specified Exposure Control Methods When Working With Materials Containing Crystalline Silica.

Table 1 lists the dust control methods that have been found to be most effective by the specific tool being used or task being performed. When the table is followed correctly, with the additional use of respirators as noted, employers are not required to measure the silica exposure levels of their workers, and they are exempt from the permissible exposure limit (PEL).

In addition to new silica control measures, OSHA also wants information on new tools or tasks that can expose workers to silica along with the effectiveness of dust control methods to limit exposure during those tasks or with those tools.

After OSHA has gathered information, it will be evaluated for the purpose of determining whether revisions should be made to Table 1.

According to a report from Bloomberg, six months after enforcement of the new silica rule began, 116 violations had been issued. Thirty-five of these violations had to do with not measuring exposure levels while 31 violations dealt with not following the information in Table 1. Eighty percent of these violations are classified as serious and carry fines of up to $12,934.

Enforcement of the rule is steadily increasing, but so are complaints from employers about the agency lacking proper guidance on the new rule. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has already submitted lists of compliance questions in order to help the agency with guidance.

“OSHA is looking at this and I hope we’ll have something fairly soon,” stated Robert Matuga, safety director of the NAHB.

Interested parties who would like to submit information pertaining to revisions in Table 1, are encouraged to contact the following office:

William Perry 
Director, Directorate of Standards and Guidance 
Department of Labor 
Occupational Safety and Health Administration 
200 Constitution Avenue NW., FP Building, Room N-3718, 
Washington, DC 20210 
Phone:202 693-1950 
Fax:202 693-1678 
Email: [email protected]

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