By Brent I. ClarkJames L. CurtisAdam R. Young, Patrick D. Joyce,  and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA has developed a new Regional Emphasis Program (REP) to identify and reduce hazards in the cut stone and stone products industry, which OSHA alleges to have the highest documented overexposures to respirable crystalline silica in the Denver region over the past 10 years.

Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in sand, concrete, natural stone, artificial stone, mortar and other materials, and generates respirable dust – dust that can be inhaled – during cutting, grinding and polishing. Exposures to crystalline silica are common in both construction and general industry, and OSHA has been targeting silica enforcement in the Biden administration. OSHA has a respirable crystalline silica standard for construction (29 CFR 1926.1153) and general industry (29 CFR 1910.1053).

In the past decade, OSHA found 30 percent of the documented overexposures to crystalline silica in Region 8 (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY) occurred in the cut stone and stone products industry.  OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous said “this Regional Emphasis Program on silica addresses serious health and safety hazards and enhances our focus on ensuring that industry employers comply with OSHA requirements,” and that “inhaling elevated levels of respirable crystalline silica without proper protection increases the risk of contracting multiple diseases, including silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disabling or fatal injuries.”

Focused on getting industry employers to follow required safety standards and alert workers to silica hazards, OSHA’s emphasis program also addresses struck-by and crushing hazards for handling of granite, marble, limestone, slate and other stone slabs.

We have blogged previously on this topic. See for instance OSHA Issues FAQs for General Industry for Crystalline Silica StandardOSHA Enforcement Memo for Crystalline Silica Standard in General Industry and MaritimeOSHA Publishes Crystalline Silica Standards Rule Fact Sheets for ConstructionCircuit Court Finds OSHA Failed to Adequately Explain the Crystalline Silica Standards Rule, and OSHA Publishes “Small Entity Compliance” Guides for the Crystalline Silica Standards.

Enforcement will begin on May 17, 2022.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the author, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.