Respirable crystalline silica has been known to cause serious or even fatal lung disease for many years, as it was the substance that killed many of the Barre stonecutters in the early 1900s. It was then that engineering controls such as exhaust ventilation and wet methods of cutting, grinding, and drilling were developed to limit the likelihood of workers inhaling dust that contained crystalline silica.
Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring mineral that can become toxic when its particles are small enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs (called “respirable sized” particles). Silica is commonly found in sand, soil, numerous types of rock (particularly granite), concrete, and asphalt, among other materials. When a work activity such as cutting, grinding, sweeping, or blowing generates dust that contains these materials, employees are exposed to varying levels of respirable silica. Exposures must be controlled in order to avoid respiratory disease.
Today, two very specific VOSHA regulations – one for construction and one for general industry – control employee exposure to respirable silica through work time limits, specific work practices, engineering controls, and additional requirements that employers need to meet in certain situations. PACIF has compiled the resources and guidance documents below to help members understand and meet these exacting requirements. If in doubt about how to control respirable silica exposures or how to comply with the VOSHSA regulations, please contact your PACIF loss control consultant, call our office at 802-229-9111, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.