Stone countertop workers at risk of silicosis, OSHA and NIOSH warn

February 23, 2015

Washington – Employees who work with stone countertops are at risk of crystalline silica exposure, and employers should take steps to protect them, OSHA and NIOSH stated Feb. 18 in a joint hazard alert.

Exposure to even a small amount of silica can lead to silicosis (an incurable and debilitating lung disease), lung cancer or other diseases, the agencies warn.

At-risk workers include those who manufacture, finish, or install natural and manufactured stone countertops. The alert details why silica is a concern in the stone countertop industry and provides mitigation methods, including:

  • Using water-spraying systems at the impact site
  • Wet sweeping or using high-efficiency particulate air-filtered vacuuming
  • Isolating dust-producing operations with enclosures or walls
  • Using NIOSH-approved N95 respirators

The alert was issued after reports of 46 workers in Spain and 25 workers in Israel who developed silicosis from exposure to silica during the manufacturing of stone countertops.