Crystalline silica, a common mineral often produced on construction sites from materials like sand, stone, brick, mortar, and most commonly, concrete, poses a significant health risk to construction professionals. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been steadily rolling out more information about how to combat exposure, but it’s up to contractors to inform their teams about the dangers of silica so they can protect themselves on a day-to-day basis.
In this two-part series, we will take a firsthand look at how construction professionals can reduce silica exposure when cutting concrete. Remember, for all of your legal needs as a roofing contractor, contact a talented roofing lawyer.
Why is Silica Dangerous?
When you drill, grind, cut, or crush concrete, tiny particles of crystalline silica dust are released into the air. These particles, which are often referred to as “respirable” particles, can enter the respiratory system. Once in the lungs, an overabundance of silica can lead to silicosis, a lung disease that can be deadly and currently has no known cure. Furthermore, crystalline silica has been attributed to the development of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease, and a host of other potentially debilitating respiratory diseases. Although it takes time to develop these conditions, usually years, constant exposure on unchecked project sites can accelerate the spread of silica-related diseases.
How is Silica Produced?
There are countless ways to produce silica on the project site. Any construction practices that involve breaking down concrete will likely produce respirable particles of crystalline silica. These tasks include:
- Handling masonry saws, grinders, drills, jackhammers, and handheld powered chipping tools
- Operating vehicle-mounted drilling rigs
- Manning crushing machines
- Utilizing heavy equipment for demolition and related tasks
- Abrasive blasting and tunneling operations
Silica is a common danger on project sites. OSHA notes that “two million construction workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in over 600,000 workplaces.” Clearly, silica inhalation is a very grave problem that must be addressed on every level of the construction industry to protect workers and ensure the continuing strength of the national workforce.
Standard (29 CFR 1926.1153)
The standard (29 CFR 1926.1153) maintains that employers should limit their employees’ exposure to silica and implement countermeasures to protect workers. Through the implementation of a prescribed control method, or by weighing the severity of silica exposure on project sites, contractors can develop dust control protocols to limit silica exposure on the project site. Of course, it’s impossible to completely eliminate exposure, but through hard work and counsel with a roofing attorney, you can reduce exposure to the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
If you would like to learn more about reducing silica exposure in concrete cutting, read part two.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.