New Silica Resources Available from California Department of Public Health
Two resources recently published by the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are intended to help employers protect workers through reducing exposures to respirable crystalline silica. The first, a new employer guide (PDF) focusing on silica air monitoring in the workplace—particularly in the stone fabrication industry—outlines steps and best practices for conducting personal air monitoring for silica. This document provides information about exposure limits and how to obtain an industrial hygienist’s support for sampling and analysis. CDPH also summarizes steps for selecting workers for personal air monitoring, conducting air monitoring, reviewing and sharing results with workers, and maintaining records. The guide also includes a table that employers can use to determine when to repeat air monitoring. The second new resource, a one-page overview of Cal/OSHA’s silica standard for general industry (PDF), informs employers of the regulation’s key requirements.
Federal OSHA estimates that 2.3 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to silica on the job. Workers in the cut stone and stone products industry are exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust during activities such as manufacturing stone countertops and cutting or crushing stone. A report published by CDC in 2019 identified 18 cases of silicosis, including two fatalities, among stone fabrication workers in the states of California, Colorado, Texas, and Washington during the years 2017–2019. The report noted that the affected workers worked primarily with engineered stone, which “contains substantially more silica” than natural stone. Silicosis is a preventable occupational disease that may be attributed to the inhalation of respirable crystalline silica particles. Before 2017–2019, only one case of silicosis had been reported among engineered stone fabrication workers in the U.S., according to CDC.
For more information, see the CDPH webpage on silica safety resources for stone fabricators. The department’s new resources are also available for download in Spanish from this page.
Related: “By the Numbers” in the August 2022 Synergist focused on silica overexposures among stone workers, and an infographic about silicosis among stone workers in Queensland, Australia, appeared in the April 2019 Synergist.