Health And Safety Update: Emergent Contaminant “Silica” On Construction Sites

Until recently, and although it affects one of the most common industries in New Jersey, an OSHA regulation has been “hiding in the sand”.  Known as the Respirable Crystalline Silica Construction Standard (29 CFR 1926.1153), this regulation requires construction companies to take several steps to limit employee exposure to crystalline silica.

So, what is silica exactly? Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in construction materials such as sand, stone, concrete, brick and mortar.  When workers cut, grind, drill, or crush materials that contain silica, very small particles become airborne.  The Construction Standard now limits the amount by which workers can be exposed: 50 µg/m3, according to the new Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL).  In addition, this regulation also requires employers to implement other safety measures when working with silica, including written control plans, training and medical surveillance.

To facilitate the decision-making process, OSHA also created a table of control methods for various tasks that are likely to be performed in the construction industry.  The table identifies the engineering and work practice controls and respiratory protection required for each specific task:

Compliance with the new Respirable Crystalline Silica Construction Standard, as with many other regulations, can be challenging to say the least.  EWMA’s Certified Hazardous Material Manager (CHMM) and trained staff members are able to assist with navigating all aspects of meeting the compliance criteria of this new regulation, including the written exposure control plan.

For more information and to see if this standard applies to your work environment, please reach out to Craig Gorczyca, Director of Regulatory Compliance and Waste Management Services, at (973) 560-1400 x145 or at

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