California silica ETS takes effect December 29

Comes in response to silicosis epidemic among artificial stone fabrication workers

Photo: CDC

California issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) on respirable crystalline silica that goes into effect December 29, 2023. The ETS comes in response to a silicosis epidemic among artificial stone fabrication workers in California and allows Cal/OSHA to quickly shut down an operation if work violates the ETS and endangers employees’ health.

It applies to general industry workers occupationally exposed to silica; it does not apply to construction, agricultural operations, or exposures that result from the processing of sorptive clays.

The ETS includes revisions to protect workers in high-exposure tasks such as grinding, cutting, polishing, and cleanup of artificial stone and natural stone containing more than 10 percent crystalline silica. Information published by Cal/OSHA defines artificial stone as “any reconstituted, artificial, synthetic, composite, engineered, or manufactured stone, porcelain, or quartz typically within a binding material. It contains more than 90 percent crystalline silica.”

The ETS makes changes to California Code of Regulations, Title 8, section 5204. Among the revisions are:

  • Additional employee exposure control precautions,
  • Expansion of the written exposure control plan,
  • Employee communication and training,
  • Respirator protection,
  • Employee exposure monitoring, and
  • Reporting silicosis and cancer cases.

Employers must implement section 5204, including all ETS requirements, in their workplaces if the work their employees perform meets the scope and application of that standard.

McCraren Compliance offers a full range of safety and health training and consulting services. Plus we can help you incorporate well-being into your traditional systems in order to support the Total Worker Health of your workforce.

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Original article published by J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

OSHA announces enforcement, compliance initiative to protect workers from silica exposure in engineered stone fabrication, installation

OSHA supplements current efforts to address serious workplace danger

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor announced that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration today launched a new initiative focused on enhancing enforcement and providing compliance assistance to protect workers in the engineered stone fabrication and installation industries.

“Many workers in the engineering 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,” explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “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.”

Supplementing OSHA’s current National Emphasis Program for Respirable Crystalline Silica, this initiative 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. It establishes procedures for prioritizing federal OSHA inspections to identify and ensure prompt abatement of hazards in covered industries where workers face exposure to high levels of silica dust.

OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identify silica dust exposure as a health hazard for workers involved in manufacturing, finishing and installing natural and manufactured stone, which includes the man-made, engineered artificial or cultured types.

When inhaled, very small crystalline silica particles expose workers to the risk of silicosis, an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. Unsafe silica dust exposure can also lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or kidney disease.

Industries subject to the prioritized programmed inspections include those engaged in Cut Stone and Stone Product Manufacturing as well as Brick, Stone and Related Construction Material Merchant Wholesalers. Outreach efforts will continue to include additional industries that may work with engineered stone.

A July 2023 study released by the American Medical Association underscores the dangers for workers in these industries. The “Silicosis Among Immigrant Engineered Stone Countertop Fabrication Workers in California” study cited 52 male patients diagnosed with silicosis caused by occupational exposure to respirable silica dust from engineered stone. Of these patients, 20 suffered progressive massive fibrosis, 11 needed lung transplants and 10 died due to their exposures.

As part of the initiative, OSHA is sending affected employers and stakeholders information on the initiative, including fact sheets on dust control methods and safer work practices for engineered stone manufacturing, finishing and installation operations.

Learn more about crystalline silica.

McCraren Compliance offers a full range of safety and health training and consulting services. Plus we can help you incorporate well-being into your traditional systems in order to support the Total Worker Health of your workforce.

Call 888-758-4757, email or visit our website

Original article published by OSHA

US Department of Labor announces proposed rule to reduce silica dust exposure, better protect miners’ health

Original article published by MSHA

Unhealthy levels of silica dust linked to serious workplace illnesses

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a proposal by its Mine Safety and Health Administration to amend current federal standards to better protect the nation’s miners from health hazards related to exposure to respirable crystalline silica, or silica dust. The proposed rule change will ensure miners have at least the same level of protections as workers in other industries.

Unhealthy levels of silica, a carcinogen, and exposures over time cause severe illnesses, including silicosis; progressive massive fibrosis; non-malignant respiratory disease, such as emphysema; kidney disease; and lung cancer. Exposure to mixed coal mine dust that contains respirable crystalline silica can lead to the development of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, commonly known as black lung disease; multi-dust pneumoconiosis; and progressive massive fibrosis.

The proposed rule would require mine operators to maintain miners’ Permissible Exposure Limit to respirable crystalline silica at or below 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air for a full shift exposure, calculated as an 8-hour time weighted average. If a miner’s exposure exceeds the limit, the proposed rule would require operators to take immediate corrective actions to come into compliance.

“The purpose of this proposed rule is simple: prevent more miners from suffering from debilitating and deadly occupational illnesses by reducing their exposure to silica dust. Silica overexposures have a real-life impact on a miner’s health,” explained Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “Miners like a crusher operator at a California sand and gravel mine or a roof bolter in a West Virginia coal mine should never be forced to choose between preserving their health and providing for themselves and their families. This proposed rule furthers the Mine Act’s clear instruction to prioritize miners’ health.”

In addition to reducing the existing exposure limit, the proposal also includes other requirements to protect miners’ health — such as exposure sampling — and medical surveillance at no cost for metal and nonmetal miners. It would also replace existing outdated requirements for respiratory protection with a standard that reflects the latest advances in respiratory protection technologies and practices.

Following the proposed rule’s publication in the Federal Register, MSHA will welcome public comments and announce dates for upcoming public hearings in Arlington, Virginia, and Denver, Colorado. The hearings will be open for in-person or online participation.

McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

MSHA administrator to miners and operators: Be proactive on preventing silica exposure

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication


Photo: US Department of Labor

Arlington, VA — As the Mine Safety and Health Administration works toward publishing a proposed rule on respirable crystalline silica, agency administrator Chris Williamson is encouraging mine workers and operators to “take proactive measures” to assess silica-related health hazards.

The Department of Labor’s Spring 2022 regulatory agenda, published June 21, shows MSHA’s intent to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking on silica in September. Speaking during a June 28 conference call for industry stakeholders, Williamson called for forward-thinking and action within the mining community in the interim.

OSHA estimates that 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust annually. Workers can inhale silica dust during mining and other operations, including cutting, sawing, drilling or crushing materials such as rock and stone. Crystalline silica can damage lung tissue and lead to lung disease, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or incurable silicosis.

“When miners are repeatedly overexposed to silica levels that are unhealthy, that’s how you develop these diseases,” Williamson said. “Once a miner develops a form of pneumoconiosis, outside of getting a lung transplant, there’s no fix for that. It’s a progressive illness.”

In June, MSHA launched an enforcement initiative intended to increase protections against respirable crystalline silica. Measures include conducting spot inspections at coal and nonmetal mines “with a history of repeated silica overexposures,” expanding sampling at mines, and offering compliance assistance to mine operators.

MSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations Patricia Silvey said during the call that the enforcement initiative is “not meant to be, ‘Gotcha!’”

“It’s not meant to be punitive,” she continued. “It’s really meant to be proactive and remedial, and try to get corrective action … before we even show up.”

A fatality number that ‘really jumps out’

MSHA reported that eight of the 15 fatal on-the-job injuries among miners to date this year have involved workers with one year or less of experience at the mine.

“Whenever we see a number like this, it really jumps out at us and we really want to make sure that training is what it needs to be,” Marcus Smith, chief of MSHA’s Accident Investigations Division, said during the call.

Agency officials discussed several related best practices, including training personnel to:

  • Perform tasks safely and recognize potential hazards.
  • Recognize hazardous highwall conditions.
  • Recognize fall hazards and use fall protection when they exist.
  • Identify hazardous roof and rib conditions.

McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

New OSHA directive details enforcement of silica standards


Image: simazoran/iStockphoto

Washington — Seeking “uniformity” in the enforcement of its silica standards, OSHA has published an instructional directive for its compliance safety and health officers.

Dated June 25, the directive outlines inspection procedures for addressing respirable crystalline silica exposures in general industry, maritime and construction. The directive guides OSHA inspectors on the enforcement of the silica standards’ requirements, which include:

  • Methods of compliance
  • Exposure assessments
  • Table 1 tasks and specified exposure control methods
  • Housekeeping
  • Communication of hazards
  • Respiratory protection
  • Regulated areas
  • Recordkeeping
  • Employee information and training
  • Medical surveillance

“The directive also provides clarity on major topics, such as alternative exposure control methods when a construction employer does not fully and properly implement Table 1, variability in sampling, multiemployer situations, and temporary workers,” a June 26 agency press release states.

The standards call for a permissible exposure limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour time-weighted average. As of June 23, general industry and maritime employers must offer medical surveillance to all employees who are exposed to the silica standard’s “action level” of 25 micrograms per cubic meter for 30 or more days a year.

Hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry have until June 23, 2021, to comply with OSHA requirements for the standard’s engineering controls.