Silica and Countertop Workers
In February, a joint OSHA-NIOSH hazard alert drew attention to crystalline silica exposures among workers involved in manufacturing and installing stone countertops. Workers in this industry saw, grind, polish, and drill slabs of natural and manufactured stone, and are at risk of significant silica exposure. Other staff at these workplaces may also be at risk, including those who perform maintenance and housekeeping activities. For workers who perform operations that generate dust, engineering controls such as water sprays and local exhaust ventilation are recommended. The following information on countertop workers’ exposures has been selected from recent OSHA and NIOSH publications.
The Synergist: “Silicosis: Far from Vanquished” (October 2014). Synergist podcast: “Silica” (February 2014).
CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:Notes from the Field: Silicosis in a Countertop Fabricator—Texas, 2014,” (February 2015).

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The current OSHA permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica is a formula that involves measuring respirable dust and quantifying its proportion of crystalline silica. Last summer, OSHA proposed a new rule for crystalline silica that would reduce the PEL to an eight-hour time-weighted average of 0.05 mg/m3.