OSHA’s New Initiative to Combat Silica Exposure in Engineered Stone Industries

In an era where workplace safety is paramount, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has taken a significant step to safeguard the health and well-being of workers in the engineered stone fabrication and installation industries. With the launch of a comprehensive initiative, OSHA is not only enhancing enforcement but also providing crucial compliance assistance to protect workers from the dangers of silica exposure.

 Silica dust exposure is a serious health hazard that has plagued workers involved in manufacturing, finishing, and installing natural and engineered stone. These industries have long faced the risk of silicosis, an incurable and potentially fatal lung disease caused by inhaling crystalline silica particles. The danger doesn’t stop at silicosis; it can also lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease, leaving workers vulnerable to life-altering health complications.

 To understand the urgency of this initiative, consider the story of a 27-year-old worker in California. In 2022, he found himself in the emergency room struggling to breathe. A lung biopsy confirmed his worst fears: silicosis. Since then, he has relied on an oxygen tank to survive and has been unable to support his wife and three young children financially. His story is just one among many highlighting the urgent need for action.

 OSHA’s initiative is a multi-pronged approach to address this pressing issue. It supplements the existing National Emphasis Program for Respirable Crystalline Silica with a renewed focus on enforcement and compliance in industries dealing with engineered stone. The goal is to ensure that employers in these industries follow required safety standards and provide workers with the necessary protections to maintain their health.

Central to the initiative is the prioritization of federal OSHA inspections. The aim is to identify and abate hazards in industries where workers face high levels of silica dust exposure. These industries include Cut Stone and Stone Product Manufacturing, as well as Brick, Stone, and Related Construction Material Merchant Wholesalers. Moreover, outreach efforts will extend to industries that may interact with engineered stone.

 A July 2023 study by the American Medical Association sheds light on the gravity of the situation. The study, titled “Silicosis Among Immigrant Engineered Stone Countertop Fabrication Workers in California,” details the experiences of workers exposed to respirable silica dust. Shockingly, 52 male patients were diagnosed with silicosis, with 20 suffering from progressive massive fibrosis, 11 requiring lung transplants, and 10 losing their lives due to exposure-related complications.

 As part of the initiative, OSHA is sending affected employers and stakeholders’ information on the initiative including fact sheets on dust control methods and safer work practices for engineered stone manufacturing, finishing, and installation operations. Learn more about available resources from OSHA: Silica, Crystalline – Overview | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov)

At IFO Group, we understand the importance of safeguarding the health and well-being of workers in the engineered stone manufacturing, finishing, and installation operations industry. That is why we take pride in having Certified Industrial Hygienists on our experienced team. Our experts are equipped with the knowledge and expertise needed to provide comprehensive compliance assistance, helping your business combat the threat of silicosis effectively. With IFO Group’s dedicated professionals by your side, you can proactively address silicosis risks and create a safer, healthier environment for your workforce. Contact us at info@ifogroup.com or at 832-403-2135 to request a free consultation today.