OSHA, Silica, and the Construction Industry

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Silica and What You Need to Know


Background and Health impacts


Silica (SiO2) is one of the most common minerals in the earth’s crust. Glass, beach sand, silicone, and granite are all “silica” materials. Products containing silica have been used for thousands of years in building, and it is a key ingredient in many products we use every day.


There are two forms of silica: crystalline and non-crystalline.


Crystalline silica is a mineral that occurs in several forms. Quartz, the most common form, is a component of sand, stone, rock concrete, brick, block, and mortar.


Non-crystalline silica is found in glass, silicon carbide, and silicone.


When rocks containing crystalline silica are cut, crushed, ground, drilled, or used in similar industrial processes, dust particles are produced. These particles are very fine – at least 100 times smaller than ordinary beach sand – and are known as respirable crystalline silica or RCS.


Inhaling very small or respirable crystalline silica particles is most hazardous and may cause multiple diseases such as silicosis, followed in severe cases by lung cancer.

Construction worker using a gas saw to cut concrete


Who is at risk from exposure to crystalline silica?


It is estimated that 2.3 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica on the job. The majority of the workers, about 2 million, are in the construction industry. The hazard exists when specific activities create respirable dust that is released into the air.


The New OSHA Standard


OSHA’s recently implemented silica standards for Construction “29 CFR 1926.1153” and General Industry “29 CFR 1910.1053” suggests procedures applicable for work in these environments. This new standard affects all activities that generate silica dust on a jobsite. Trades involving brick, stone, concrete and other materials that are difficult to replace must comply with the standard. This is a change around “process,” not specific products.


Impacts on Industry


Industries affected by this regulation include construction, glass manufacturing, pottery products, structural clay products, concrete products, foundries, cut stone and stone products, railroads, refractory products, and asphalt products manufacturing to name a few.


Always read the safety data sheet for the workpiece and abrasive before use. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a number of available resources to help companies understand the general information and requirements to explain the new regulations, including:



For additional information on this topic or if you need any other abrasive safety information, please review the Norton Product Safety page, ANSI, OSHA and all literature provided by the abrasive wheel and machine manufacturer. You may contact the Saint-Gobain Product Safety Department at (508) 795-2317, fax: (508) 795-5120, or contact your Saint-Gobain Abrasives representative with any safety related questions.