Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in the earth’s crust and is found in most building materials like stone, sand, concrete and mortar. When it is agitated by activities such as grinding, sawing, drilling, sandblasting, etc., it becomes respirable crystalline silica—tiny particles, 100 times smaller than granules of normal sand, that can be inhaled by workers in its vicinity, causing severe illness.
Prolonged inhalation of respirable crystalline silica can cause silicosis, an incurable respiratory disease that leads to chronic conditions like tuberculosis. Though exposure is virtually unavoidable by those in the construction industry as well as many others, OSHA requires job sites to take measures to prevent silica inhalation.
OSHA’s website is a wealth of information on respiration protection equipment and standards, as well as training videos. There are also project planning resources online, like Silica-Safe.org, that provide equipment recommendations based on the tasks and materials being used in your project.
Protect your workers, no matter how big or small the project. Refer to OSHA’s silica standard for construction page for additional information.