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.

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

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

Health Alert: Respirable Crystalline Silica

Original article published by MSHA

PDF icon health-hazard-alert-silicadust .pdf

Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible, and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica.

Miner Health Matters MSHA logo
Best Practices:

What can Metal/Nonmetal and Coal Mine Operators do to prevent silicosis?

1.    Perform air monitoring of worksites.  Monitoring will determine:

  • effectiveness of engineering controls
  • need for additional work practices to reduce dust levels; and
  • proper respiratory protection needed

2.    Install and maintain engineering controls to reduce the amount of silica in the air. Examples of controls include:

  • exhaust ventilation
  • increase face ventilation: both velocity and quantity
  • dry dust collection systems
  • water sprays
  • wet drilling or suppression
  • supply vacuums with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters; and
  • enclosed cabs

3.    Administrative controls are the second line of defense for minimizing silica exposures. These controls include:

  • practice preventative maintenance:  clean and maintain equipment
  • practice good housekeeping: don’t dry sweep to clean up
  • use wet cleaning methods, or vacuums with HEPA filters to remove dust from floors and surfaces; and
  • train miners about engineering controls and work practices that reduce dust, and the importance of maintenance and good housekeeping

4.    Provide miners with appropriately selected, properly fitted, and NIOSH approved respirators, as engineering controls are installed or updated.

  • make sure respirators are kept clean and properly maintained and that miners are trained in their use

A comprehensive source of dust controls and practices can be found at:

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.