An Overview of the OSHA Silica Regulations

OSHA's silica regulations are a crucial safeguard against a hidden workplace danger. Silica, commonly found in materials like sand and stone, poses severe health risks when inhaled as respirable silica. Activities like sandblasting, sawing brick, and concrete work can release these tiny, harmful particles into the air, potentially causing lung issues, silicosis, and more. OSHA standards exist for both construction and general industry, with specific guidelines to minimize exposure and protect workers. Employers must implement exposure control plans, offer health exams, and maintain accurate records. Stay safe; ensure your workplace complies with OSHA silica regulations to protect your employees.
industrial site view

There are many hazards in the workplace. While different businesses have different dangers, safety should always be a priority. In order to ensure the safety of working employees,  OSHA has instituted several standards of practice that serve to help provide a safe and productive work environment. These standards cover a wide range of topics, including Silica. Here is an overview of the OSHA silica regulations.

What Is Silica?

Crystalline silica is a mineral that is commonly found in the crust of the earth. Many common materials, such as sand, stone, concrete, etc., all contain silica. This material is commonly used in the construction of products like glass. Pottery, ceramics, bricks, and artificial stones.

How Are You Exposed To Silica?

Exposure to silica can happen in many ways. It’s unlikely that you’ll be exposed to silica by dealing with the finished products that contain the mineral. So handling pottery or ceramics shouldn’t give any cause for concern. That being said, the construction of these products can greatly increase your chances of exposure. 

Respirable silica is tiny particles of the mineral that can be inhaled. These particles are around 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, making the inhalation of respirable silica something to be concerned about.

You can be exposed to silica from any activity involving the dust of something with silica to be kicked up, such as:

  • Sandblasting
  • Sawing brick
  • Concrete destruction
  • Sanding
  • Dilling
  • Demolition
  • Etc

These activities increase the chance of respirable silica being spread into the air and then inhaled by you. Exposure to silica can cause health concerns.

What Are The Dangers Of Crystalline Silica?

While external exposure to silica isn’t dangerous, inhalation of the mineral can cause serious and even fatal illnesses and injuries. Silicosis, lung cancer, tuberculosis, kidney disease, and COPD are all possible health problems related to the inhalation of silica. Since crystalline silica can cause so many health issues, OSHA instituted standard procedures in the workforce to help protect employees from potential issues.

What Are The OSHA Silica Regulations?

OSHA has released two separate standards for silica regulations. One is for construction, and the other is for general industry and maritime. 

Construction

Construction employers are required to keep their employees safe by implementing the following standards:

  • Implementing an exposure control plan that highlights the tasks involving exposure as well as means to protect worker health.
  • Designate an individual to implement the exposure control plan
  • Minimize housekeeping that could potentially expose employees to silica
  • Offer health exams, including chest X-rays and lung tests every three years to all workers who are required to wear a respirator for at least 30 days out of the year
  • Inform employees on which work operations may result in silica exposure as well as how to mitigate the risk of exposure
  • Keep accurate records of exposure data, medical exams, etc.

General Industry And Maritime

While the end goal is the same, ie, protecting workers’ health from the dangers of silica exposure, the process is slightly different for those working in the general industry rather than construction.

  • Protect all workers from over-exposure to silica 
  • Minimize worker access to areas where they could be exposed to silica in quantities that exceed the permissible exposure limit
  • Provide employees with respirators to limit exposure to dust containing silica
  • Implement housekeeping practices that avoid the creation of airborne dust containing silica
  • Offer health exams, including chest X-rays and lung tests every three years to all workers who are required to wear a respirator for at least 30 days out of the year
  • Inform employees on which work operations may result in silica exposure as well as how to mitigate the risk of exposure
  • Keep accurate records of exposure data, medical exams, etc.

While there are many dangers involved in working with silica, following OSHA’s safety measures can greatly reduce the risk of harmful exposure. If you need help creating an action plan to help protect workers from exposure, or you’re concerned about company practices that may be harming the health of employees, reach out to a qualified work health expert today. 

Work Health Solutions

Work Health Solutions

About Us

Work Health Solutions is dedicated to preserving a safe work environment and improving existing programs and care for local, regional and national organizations.

Share This Post

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email

Recent Posts

Speak with an Occupational Health Specialist

If you have questions about Work Health Solution's occupational health services or if you need to purchase bulk medical supplies, such as COVID-19 testing kits, please contact us.

Get in Touch

Dr. Michael Tenison

A series of notable accomplishments distinguish Dr. Michael Tenison’s career in medical operations and healthcare management:

  • Successfully led medical operations at a national healthcare provider, focusing on optimizing healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.
  • Oversaw the regional medical practices in key markets like Oregon and Northern California, ensuring consistent, quality medical care and service delivery.
  • Demonstrated exceptional leadership in building and mentoring a large medical provider team, enhancing team performance and patient care standards.
  • Implemented strategic company policies and protocols, significantly improving center efficiency, clinical quality, and patient experiences.
  • Played a pivotal role in financial planning and identifying growth opportunities for healthcare services, contributing to the organization’s overall success.
  • Served as a primary point of contact for regional employer clients and insurance companies, fostering strong relationships and effective communication.
  • Maintained high medical care and case management standards through diligent supervision, chart audits, and performance metric analysis.

Dr. Matt Feeley

Dr. Matt Feeley is a renowned figure in military aviation medicine, with a robust background in occupational and environmental medicine from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

  • Former Naval Flight Surgeon, exemplifying his expertise in aerospace medicine and commitment to military health.
  • Served with distinction at NSA Bahrain and HSM-37, earning the COMPACFLT Flight Surgeon of the Year award for exceptional medical service.
  • Supported U.S. Marines VMFA-323 aboard the USS Nimitz, MACG-38, and VMU-3, demonstrating versatility and leadership in diverse medical environments.
  • Broad interests and significant contributions in global health, corporate medicine, and aerospace medicine, highlighting his multidisciplinary approach.
  • Proven track record as a dynamic leader, well-equipped to face the challenges in a fractional medical directorship role with innovative solutions.

Dr. Glen Cheng

A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

  • Currently spearheads employee health protection and promotion within the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System.
  • Trained in residency at Harvard, achieving board certification as a physician; also a licensed patent attorney with experience as FDA regulatory counsel.
  • Co-founded Acceleromics, a consulting firm providing clinical and regulatory guidance to digital health startups.

Erin Davis

 Chief Clinical Officer at Work Health Solutions, certified in Adult-Gerontology (AGNP-C) and Athletic Training (ATC).

  • Oversees clinical operations and ensures high clinical standards across the company’s national field staff.
  • Former Manager of Clinic Operations and Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner at Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC).
  • Specialized in treating occupational injuries and illnesses, and provided medical surveillance and travel medicine consults at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Lab.
  • Dedicated to sports and occupational injury treatment and prevention.
  • Assistant Clinical Faculty at UCSF, mentoring students in clinical rotations within the Adult Gerontology and Occupational and Environmental Health Program.
  • Holds leadership roles as Treasurer and President Elect of the California El Camino Real Association of Occupational Health Nurses (CECRAOHN), affiliated with the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN).

Dr. Robert Goldsmith

Expert in benefits design and onsite innovation with specialization in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Previous role as Executive Director for Employee Health at Novartis Services, Inc., leading health services and clinical support.
  • Instrumental in creating an integrated healthcare system at Novartis.
  • Former private practice in internal medicine in Stamford, Connecticut, and Medical Director consultant for GTE Corporation.
  • Transitioned to GE as a Global Medical Director in 2000.
  • Holds a medical degree from Albert Einstein College, an MPH from the University of Connecticut, and completed training at Greenwich Hospital and Yale-New Haven Medical Center.
  • Assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Vagelos School of Medicine, Columbia University.
  • Serves as a team physician for high school athletes in Stamford.
  • Published works on occupational health risks, primary prevention, and exercise-induced asthma.