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OSHA emphasis program to target silica hazards in cut stone, stone products manufacturing industry

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Denver — A new Regional Emphasis Program from OSHA is aimed at safeguarding workers in the cut stone and stone products manufacturing industry from silica hazards.

Workers can breathe in silica dust while cutting, sawing, drilling or crushing materials such as rock and stone. Crystalline silica can damage tissue in the lungs and lead to lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or incurable silicosis. OSHA estimates that 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust every year.

Set to go into effect May 17, the REP applies to employers in OSHA’s Region 8 – which covers Colorado, Montana, North and South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. The program will focus on getting employers in the industry to follow required safety standards and alert workers to silica hazards. In addition, the REP will address struck-by and crushing hazards associated with the handling of granite, marble, limestone, slate and other stone slabs.

“In the past 10 years, the cut stone and stone products manufacturing industry has had the highest documented overexposures to respirable crystalline silica in the region,” OSHA says in a press release, adding that 30% of the overexposures in Region 8 were in the cut stone and stone products industry.

The agency says it will reach out to assist industry employers and employee groups before May 17.

“This Regional Emphasis Program on silica addresses serious health and safety hazards and enhances our focus on ensuring that industry employers comply with OSHA requirements,” Jennifer Rous, OSHA’s Region 8 administrator, said in the release. “Inhaling elevated levels of respirable crystalline silica without proper protection increases the risk of contracting multiple diseases, including silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disabling or fatal injuries.”


A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published in September 2019 warned of “an emerging public health threat” after researchers identified an increase in cases of silicosis among workers who handle engineered stone designed primarily for household countertops.

The next month, Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Alma Adams (D-NC), chair of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, sent a letter to then-Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, urging OSHA to launch a National Emphasis Program for stone fabrication establishments.

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