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OSHA seeks to protect stone countertop workers from lung disease


Photo: Bill Oxford/iStockphoto

Washington — A new OSHA initiative is aimed at protecting workers in the engineered stone fabrication and installation industries from silica exposure.

Breathing in respirable crystalline silica – which is 100 times smaller than a grain of sand – can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and incurable silicosis, defined by NIOSH as “an irreversible but preventable lung disease.” 

The initiative will direct enforcement efforts and compliance assistance to employers who fall under two North American Industry Classification System codes:

  • 327991 – Cut Stone and Stone Product Manufacturing
  • 423320 – Brick, Stone and Related Construction Material Merchant Wholesalers

The initiative, which supplements OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on respirable crystalline silica, “will focus enforcement efforts on industry employers to make sure they’re following required safety standards and providing workers with the protections required to keep them healthy.”

As part of the agency’s compliance assistance efforts, OSHA will share fact sheets on dust control methods and safe work practices.

“Many workers in the engineered stone industry are experiencing illnesses so severe that they’re unable to breathe – much less work a full shift – because of their exposure to silica dust,” OSHA administrator Doug Parker said in a Sept. 25 press release. “Among them is a 27-year-old worker in California who went to an emergency room with shortness of breath in 2022 and whose lung biopsy later revealed he had silicosis. Since then, he has been on an oxygen tank and unable to support his wife and three young children financially.”

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