New OSHA Initiatives to Combat Silica Exposure in Engineered Stone Industry - Worksite Medical
Get Your Quote!


If you’re operating within the engineered stone industry, take note: OSHA’s gearing up to take a closer look into your operations. Specifically, the dangers respirable silica could pose to your team. In fact, don’t be surprised if stricter standards are looming on the horizon.

Over the last few years, it’s become more and more evident that respirable silica exposure in the engineered stone industry poses significant health risks. Largely, this is a result of the high crystalline silica content in engineered stone products.

Engineered stone products can contain up to 97% silica, an amount far exceeding that found in natural stone like granite and marble.

That means workers involved in fabricating, sanding, or polishing engineered stone are at a far greater risk of inhaling silica dust, which can lead to serious health effects like silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.



Popularity Leads to Rising Dangers in the Engineered Stone Industry


Although popular among consumers due to its durability, uniformity, and lower price compared natural stone, the introduction of engineered stone has come at a cost for those involved in its creation & installation.

Unlike natural stone slabs cut from quarries, engineered stone is created by combining crushed stone minerals with a binding agent, typically a polymer resin or cement mix.

As a result, engineered stone tends to generate smaller, more dangerous particles during fabrication than those occurring from natural stone.

To mitigate these risks, strict control measures such as ventilation, wet methods, and proper housekeeping are crucial to prevent high levels of silica dust exposure.

Initiatives by organizations like OSHA aim to improve enforcement and compliance in the industry to protect workers from the dangers of respirable crystalline silica.

To that end, OSHA has launched a new program aimed at tackling silica exposure in this sector, hoping to protect workers from deadly disease.

Let’s explore what this means for you and your team, and why it’s such a significant step in safeguarding those in the engineered stone industry.


Related Article: OSHA Targets Silica Hazards in Cut Stone Industry

Related Article: Silica Dust Protection: What You Need to Know


Understanding Silica Exposure


So, what exactly is silica, and why is it such a concern in the engineered stone industry?

Silica is a naturally occurring mineral found in many materials, including sand, quartz, and granite. When these materials are processed or disturbed, such as during cutting, grinding, or drilling, silica particles can become airborne and pose a serious health risk when inhaled.

In the engineered stone industry (custom countertops, tables, backsplashes, and more), cutting and shaping these products all release a significant amount of this dangerous dust. This is due in large part to its composition.


The Risks of Silica Exposure


Silica exposure is no joke. Respirable silica dust is incredibly fine, capable floating through the air with the ease of a light fog.

But, what really matters is what happens when its inhaled into the lungs.

Prolonged or intense exposure to silica dust can lead to a range of health issues, including silicosis, lung cancer, and other debilitating lung diseases. Workers in the engineered stone industry are particularly at risk due to the high levels of silica dust generated during the fabrication and installation of these products.


  • See OSHA Publication on Respirable Crystalline Silica Focused Inspection Initiative in the Engineered Stone Fabrication and Installation Industries.
  • See OSHA-NIOSH publication on Worker Exposure to Silica during Countertop Manufacturing, Finishing and Installation


OSHA’s New Program


Recognizing the urgent need to address silica exposure in the engineered stone industry, OSHA has rolled out a targeted program to help employers and workers mitigate this risk.

The program includes comprehensive guidelines and resources aimed at raising awareness, improving training, and implementing effective control measures to reduce silica dust levels in workplaces.

Let’s take a look at the key components involved:

  • Education and Training: OSHA is emphasizing the importance of educating workers about the risks of silica exposure and providing them with proper training on how to work safely with engineered stone materials.
  • Engineering Controls: Implementing engineering controls such as ventilation systems, wet methods for dust suppression, and enclosed work areas can help reduce silica dust levels in the workplace.
  • Respiratory Protection: In situations where engineering controls alone may not be sufficient, OSHA recommends the use of appropriate respiratory protection to prevent inhalation of silica dust.
  • Medical Monitoring: Regular medical monitoring of workers exposed to silica dust can help detect early signs of respiratory problems and ensure timely intervention.


Benefits of OSHA’s Initiative


By proactively addressing silica exposure in the engineered stone industry, OSHA’s program offers several benefits:

  • Improved Health: By reducing silica dust levels, workers’ risk of developing respiratory illnesses is significantly lowered.
  • Enhanced Safety Culture: Increased awareness and training foster a culture of safety where workers prioritize their health and well-being.
  • Compliance with Regulations: Following OSHA guidelines not only protects workers but also ensures compliance with regulatory standards.


What Employers Can Do


Employers play a crucial role in ensuring the success of OSHA’s program. For example:

  • Conduct Risk Assessments: Identify areas where silica exposure may occur and assess the level of risk faced by workers.
  • Implement Control Measures: Put in place engineering controls, provide necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), and establish safe work practices to minimize silica dust exposure.
  • Provide Training: Educate employees on the hazards of silica exposure, proper handling techniques, and the importance of following safety protocols.
  • Regularly Monitor Health: Offer regular health screenings to monitor workers’ respiratory health and detect any issues early on.
  • See OSHA instruction on Inspection Procedures for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standards


Bringing It Together


OSHA’s initiative to combat silica exposure in the engineered stone industry is a significant step towards protecting the health and safety of workers in this sector.

By raising awareness, providing guidance, and promoting best practices, this program aims to reduce the risks associated with silica dust exposure and create safer workplaces for all.

Remember, when it comes to health and safety, prevention is key!


Stay In Compliance With Worksite Medical


In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees.

Worksite Medical makes that program easier with mobile medical testing.

If you’re in need of DOT physical exams for your team, look no further! We offer both individual and company-wide DOT physical exams. For more information on what DOT physical exams involve, or to schedule exams for you and your team, head to: DOT Physical Exams

Additionally, we conduct on-site respirator fit tests, as well as audiometric exams, pulmonary function tests and heavy metal lab work, right on your job site. We also keep accurate, easy-to-access medical records for your convenience. You’ll keep your employees at work, and stay ahead of OSHA inspections.

With Worksite Medical, a mobile medical testing unit — we can bring all the resources of a lab to you. Our certified lab technicians can perform both qualitative and quantitative respirator tests to ensure a perfect fit.

Protect your team and your workplace now with Worksite Medical. Not sure what you need? Try our medical testing wizard here.

Give us a call at 1-844-622-8633, or complete the form below to schedule an on-site visit or to get your free quote.