safety article
Silica Exposure Hazard Alert Issued for Countertop Industry

Companies whose workers make, finish or install natural and manufactured countertops are being warned about the need to protect their workers from significant crystalline silica exposure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have issued a joint hazard alert following reports of 46 workers in Spain and 25 workers in Israel developing silicosis—an incurable, disabling and sometimes-fatal lung disease as a result of exposure to crystalline silica in their work manufacturing stone countertops.

Ten of the workers in Israel required lung transplants as a result of their exposure. Crystalline silica is found in granite, sandstone, quartzite, various other rocks and sand. Workers who inhale very small crystalline silica particles are also at risk for silicosis.

Symptoms of silicosis can include shortness of breath, cough and fatigue. Workers exposed to airborne crystalline silica particles are at increased risk for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney disease.

OSHA and NIOSH say the hazard can be mitigated with simple and effective dust controls, including monitoring the air to determine silica exposure levels; using engineering controls and safe work practices to control dust exposure; and when needed, providing workers with respiratory protection, training and information about the hazards of silica.

Related content:
Share this article with your workers to alert them to silica hazards and what can be done to prevent silicosis.

If you are in the United States: Here is a seven step compliance plan you can follow to reduce crystalline silica exposure.

If you are in Canada:  Show your workers this photograph showing a worker breaking up concrete without using respiratory PPE.

The OSHA/NIOSH hazard alert can be found here.


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