Summer Safety: Respirable Silica Worker Protections

Posted on 5/28/2019 by Roger Marks

As road repair and construction projects kick into high gear for summer, so does workers’ risk of exposure to breathable silica dust. Workers can be exposed to silica during abrasive blasting work, stonecutting, rock drilling, or the manufacturing of bricks, cement, and asphalt. Silica is also used in adhesives, paints, soaps, and glass.

Respirable Crystalline Silica Training

When OSHA introduced new silica protections for workers in 2016, including training requirements, OSHA Chief David Michaels said it would be the most impactful OSHA regulation of the last 20 years in terms of saving lives and preventing illness.

As of June 2018, general industry employers are required to provide training on the risks of silica inhalation, including:
  • Health hazards associated with breathable silica exposure.
  • Work tasks that can result in exposure.
  • Measures implemented by the employer to protect workers, i.e., engineering controls, safe work practices, or personal protective equipment (PPE) like respirators.
  • Which OSHA regulations apply to the worker’s industry—whether general industry, maritime, or construction
Prepare workers to protect themselves and satisfy OSHA’s new training mandate with the Silica Safety Online Course now available at

In the construction industry, June 23, 2017 was the deadline for employers to come into compliance with new worker protections and training requirements for workers exposed to crystalline silica (see 29 CFR 1910.1053).

Is Silica Dust the World’s Oldest Workplace Hazard?

One of the earliest known occupational hazards, breathable silica dust has been traced back to the 1700s, when an Italian physician reportedly observed sand-like substances in the lungs of stone cutters. Inhalation of silica dust can lead to the incurable lung disease silicosis and severely limit lung function. It also makes workers more susceptible to lung infections.

The jackhammers and sandblasting techniques we have today raise the risk of silica inhalation greatly. When rocks are ground into dust, workers can inhale microscopic crystalline particles. Silica is a naturally occurring mineral that is often found in quartz rocks and covers about 12% of earth’s crust, making it one of the most prevalent workplace health hazards known to man.

Silica Training: Workers Must Have a Chance to Ask Questions! 

Effective training programs are never a one-way experience. Workers must have a chance to ask questions about their specific work. In its Silica training Rule, OSHA explicitly requires that workers “have the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers if they do not fully understand the materials presented to them.”

Students who train with Lion can use the “Ask the Instructor” feature to send questions to Lion’s safety specialists and instructor team. All questions will be answered by competent experts who know what OSHA requires and how to protect workers from the risks of silica exposure.

To see other key provisions of OSHA’s 2016 Silica Rule, read OSHA Completes Long-awaited Silica Exposure Protections.

Safety Doesn’t Take Vacation

Summer is the most dangerous month for workers. Injuries and missed time skyrocket during the hot season. With summer vacations, kids home from school, and extreme heat affecting workers, losing even more productivity to injuries makes it hard to meet your goals.

Latest OSHA Safety Courses for Summer 2019:
GHS Hazard Communication (in English and Spanish)
OSHA 10-Hour (General Industry)
Asbestos Safety (in English and Spanish)
Silica Safety
Benzene Safety
Heat Illness Prevention (in English and Spanish)

When workers understand the legal requirements that back up your directions and procedures, they are more likely to think and work safely and less likely to cut corners. These OSHA online courses will help you improve your organization’s safety knowledge, identify regulated hazards in your workplace, and take the steps needed to protect workers.

Tags: 29CFR, osha, safety training, silica, worker protections

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