Silica Dust Hazards With Countertops

Silica Dust Hazards With Countertops

Silica dust Hazard Alert out from OSHA and NIOSH about stone countertops. Hear about the new warning for fabrication shops or in-home work.

OSHA and NIOSH jointly released a Hazard Alert silica dust exposure on February 18th, 2015. This notice is to warn workers of silica exposure when manufacturing and installing countertops.

In this podcast, Dan Clark notes how over 65 workers in Spain and Israel recently contracted silicosis, with 10 needing lung transplants. Dan explains how this prompted the Hazard Alert from the two U.S. Government agencies.

Listen for specific tips for the shop and in-home installation. See the transcript for links to the OSHA / NIOSH alert, and further information.


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Dan Clark: We’ve talked silica dust before, but OSHA and NIOSH have kicked up a cloud of dust with a new Hazard Alert. Let’s clear the air.

Hello, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, tackling health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.

If you’re working with stone countertops—natural or manufactured—OSHA and NIOSH last week jointly issued an alert on silica dust. It’s the first Hazard Alert on silica exposure by OSHA in almost three years. The last was on silica and hydraulic fracking in June 2012.

So, if you’re sanding, drilling, cutting, grinding, chipping and/or polishing stone countertops, beware. Whether it’s in fabrication shops or in-home work, use dust suppression. More on this in just a moment.

This hazard alert comes after 46 workers in Spain and 25 in Israel developed silicosis. This is the incurable, disabling and occasionally fatal lung disease. The workers were all exposed to crystalline silica in their work cranking out stone countertops. 10 of the workers in Israel had to have a lung transplants. It’s THAT serious.

The OSHA / NIOSH alert out last week warns of silica dust hazards in, not only the manufacturing of countertops, but also the installation.

Silica_Dust_Hazards_With_Countertops-Creative_Safety_Supply-250x250Silica dust is naturally occurring from rocks and sand, including granite and quartzite. It can get trapped in the lungs and cause silicosis. Cutting stone creates the airborne dust, the real risk. So, dust suppression methods are necessary. So what do you do?

IN MANUFACTURING: Use engineering controls.

♦ Water spraying systems instead of dry cutting and grinding.
♦ Use hand tools equipped with HEPA filters.
♦ Install local exhaust ventilation systems.
♦ Use good housekeeping practices— wet sweeping and pre-washing stone slabs.

AT RESIDENTIAL SITES: Installations are not all the same and not all engineering controls will be feasible.

♦ Perform the work in advance at the shop instead of on-site, when possible.
♦ Cut stone outdoors.
♦ Use a local exhaust ventilation systems and tools with HEPA filters.
♦ Clean up dust with a HEPA filtered vacuum.


♦ Monitor the air and give respiratory protection when the silica levels exceed the PELs—the Permissible Exposure Limits.
♦ Check with OSHA’s respiratory protection standard for appropriate PPE. A crystalline silica standard is in the works.

And, finally, are some types of countertops more dangerous than others?

♦ Engineered stone and quartzite contain over 90% silica.
♦ Sandstone and granite contain less.
•• Sandstone at 60%.
•• Granite from 10 to 45%.

So, the moral to the story when working with any countertop that contains silica: take precautions.

That’s all for this episode on Silica Dust Hazards With Countertops. Come back for more ways to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, a service of Creative Safety Supply. Save 10% off your entire order at with coupon code SAFETYBRIEF. That’s one word, SAFETYBRIEF.


saw image from Pixabay / skeez; Hazard Alert banner from OSHA and NIOSH

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