Silica, often referred to as quartz, is found in many materials common on construction sites, including soil, sand, concrete, masonry, rock, granite, and landscaping materials. The dust created by cutting, grinding, drilling or otherwise disturbing these materials can contain crystalline silica particles which create a potential health hazard.
Recognizing that very small, respirable silica particles are hazardous, OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1926.55(a) requires construction employers to keep worker exposures at or below a Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) of 0.1 mg/m3.
The rule aims to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The new rule will affect any employers who cut, grind, or drill concrete or other masonry materials. OSHA estimates that when the final rule becomes fully effective, it will save more than 600 lives annually and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year.
Employers covered by the construction standard have until June 23, 2017 to comply with most requirements. Employers covered by the general industry and maritime standard have until June 23, 2018 to comply with most requirements.
There are ways contractors can reduce the dust and reduce the hazard. Each employer is required to develop a Silica Exposure Control Plan (ECP). There are many easy-to-use planning tool that take you step-by-step through conducting a job hazard analysis for silica, selecting appropriate controls, and creating a job-specific plan to eliminate or reduce silica hazards.