• Connect With Us:

Stone Countertops and Silica Dust Hazards

silica dust hazardsWhen you chop vegetables on your beautiful stone kitchen countertop, the last thing you think about is silica dust.

Yet, silica dust hazards are real for masons who craft natural or engineered stone countertops. In fact, OSHA and NIOSH recently released a Hazard Alert on worker exposure to silica during countertop manufacturing, finishing and installation.

What is Silica Dust?

To understand the hazard, you need to understand silica. Silica is a mineral often found in quartz, sandstone and other rocks. Silica dust is created when silica is manipulated in a way that generates fine particles or dust that can be inhaled.

When silica particles enter the lungs, they can lead to scarring, cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and diminished lung capacity. They can also put the person at greater risk of tuberculosis.

Symptoms of damage may include shortness of breath, chest pain, persistent dry cough, fatigue, weight loss and fever. Symptoms may not emerge until after exposure and, by then, the damage is irreversible.

Silica Dust and Stone Countertops

Most stone countertop materials contain silica, and all countertop materials must be manipulated in some way, such as sawing, grinding, polishing and drilling. The resulting silica dust can impact not only production workers but also workers involved in maintenance, inspection and housekeeping.

Generally, engineered stone contains a higher percentage of silica than granite. But both contain enough to cause significant health problems in workers if adequate precautions aren’t taken.

Keep in mind that these health issues only exist when dust is generated. Once the countertops are installed in your kitchen, they pose no silica dust risk.

Control of Silica Dust

As with all hazards, it’s preferable to eliminate the hazard or remove workers from it though engineering and administrative controls. These controls could include ventilations systems that remove silica dust from the air or wet cutting procedures to prevent dust from entering the air. In the absence of sufficient engineering and administrative controls, workers must don respirators to prevent dust inhalation.

Keep in mind that employers must conform to OSHA’s permissible exposure limit for silica. NIOSH also has a recommended exposure limit for silica, which is lower than the OSHA limit. Local authorities and industries may also have silica limits in place, so make sure you comply with them.

For information on possible changes to OSHA rules surrounding silica, see Crystalline Silica Rulemaking on the OSHA website.

Silica Dust PPE at Select Safety Sales

At Select Safety Sales, we carry PPE to protect against airborne hazards, including respirators for filtering silica dust. We also carry respirator fit test kits and replacement respirator cartridges. Have questions? Ask our safety experts at (866) 864-3495 or sales@selectsafetysales.com. You can also ask us questions through our online chat function.

SSLSafety CouncilMcafeeGSA
Copyright © 2014. All Rights Reserved
  • Connect With Us: