OSHA Targets Silica Hazards in Cut Stone Industry - Worksite Medical
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On May 17, OSHA will be enforcing a new regional emphasis program (REP) for silica in Region 8, according to an April 20 press release.

The program will focus on protecting workers in the cut stone and stone products manufacturing industry. Workers can be exposed to crystalline silica, a hazardous mineral found in the Earth’s crust, while cutting, sawing, drilling, or crushing materials such as rock and stone. The dust enters the respiratory system where it can damage tissue in the lungs and lead to lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or silicosis, which is incurable.

According to OSHA, 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust every year.

What prompted the silica REP?


This emphasis program comes after a September 2019 CDC report warned of an “emerging public health threat” after researchers found increased cases of silicosis among workers who handle engineered stone primarily designed for household countertops. 

Following the report, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, along with Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), chair of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, sent  a letter to then Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia with an appeal to launch a National Emphasis Program focused on stone fabrication establishments.  

Worker breaking concrete, releasing silica dust

What to know about the REP


The REP will focus on alerting workers to silica hazards in addition to getting employers in the industry to follow required safety standards.

Additionally, the REP will spotlight struck-by and crushing hazards associated with the handling of stone slabs.

“In the past 10 years, the cut stone and stone products manufacturing industry has had the highest documented overexposures to respirable crystalline silica in the region,” OSHA says in a press release, adding that “30% of the overexposures in Region 8 were in the cut stone and stone products industry.”

The REP will apply to employers in OSHA’s Region 8, which covers Colorado, Montana, North and South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. It goes into effect May 17, 2022. The agency plans to reach out and support industry employers and employee groups before the enforcement date.

“This Regional Emphasis Program on silica addresses serious health and safety hazards and enhances our focus on ensuring that industry employers comply with OSHA requirements,” Jennifer Rous, OSHA’s Region 8 administrator, said in the release.

“Inhaling elevated levels of respirable crystalline silica without proper protection increases the risk of contracting multiple diseases, including silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disabling or fatal injuries.



What you need to do as an employer


In general, OSHA’s silica standard, which has grown much more strict in recent years, requires testing for employees exposed to silica dust at above the action level for 30 days or more per year. That action level amount is, quite literally, less than a handful of dust (100 micrograms per cubic meter of air), which showcases the dangers of silica and risk of COPD.

For mining, which is covered by MSHA, similar protections exist.

Medical surveillance testing is important (and required) in every industry, but you’ll also need to ensure that all respirators used fit tightly and work properly. And, you’ll need to ensure that your team members are physical able to wear them at work, which can be done fairly easily online from any device. You also need to have a written respiratory protection plan in place for when OSHA inspectors arrive on-site.

Are you in compliance?

If not, were here to help with on-site medical surveillance testing. Schedule now, or get your risk-free quote below. We’re here to keep you and your team safe and OSHA-compliant.



About Worksite Medical

In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees.

Worksite Medical makes that program easier with mobile medical testing.

We conduct on-site respirator fit tests, as well as audiometric exams, pulmonary function tests and heavy metal lab work, right on your job site. We also keep accurate, easy-to-access medical records for your convenience. You’ll keep your employees at work, and stay ahead of OSHA inspections.

With Worksite Medical, a mobile medical testing unit — we can bring all the resources of a lab to you. Our certified lab technicians can perform both qualitative and quantitative respirator tests to ensure a perfect fit.

Protect your team and your workplace now with Worksite Medical. Not sure what you need? Try our medical testing wizard here.

Give us a call at 1-844-622-8633, or complete the form below to schedule an on-site visit or to get your free quote!

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