Crystalline silica is one of the most common elements on the planet, just behind oxygen. About 2.3 million workers are exposed to it in their workplace. It’s about 100 times smaller than sand and can be found on construction sites in building materials such as concrete, block, stone, sand, and mortar.
Crystalline silica is an abundant natural material found in soil, stone and sand. It is also present in many construction materials such as brick, mortar and concrete. It becomes respirable when any of the afore-mentioned materials are cut or broken down into fine particles.
Crystalline silica is one of the most common minerals found worldwide in the earth’s crust. It is frequently used in many industrial processes such as mining, quarrying and stone-cutting. Breathing air contaminated with crystalline silica particles can cause serious respiratory and lung diseases.
OSHA estimates some two million construction employees are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in more than 600,000 workplaces across the country. To comply, companies need to follow multiple steps that aren’t always as easy as they might seem.
In June 2018, OSHA introduced the silica standard so workers exposed to silica-generating tasks would be protected from the hazards of silica and silica dust. Just over a year in, we have seen some companies still failing to comply, others still in the process, and others doing quite well.
If you’re in construction, maritime, hydraulic fracturing, or other general industries using silica, the new silica standard and silica dust should matter to you. Chances are, you could be getting exposed to dangerous respirable silica dust that you can’t even see. And, what you can’t see, can hurt you.
Exposure to respirable crystalline silica is nothing new for employees on construction sites. However, this exposure can cause serious health issues. In response to these concerns, OSHA issued a new rule on exposure to silica in construction.