The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Wednesday announced the beginning of a statewide local emphasis program in Kansas aimed at reducing the frequency of work-related silicosis resulting from employee exposure to crystalline silica.
Silica is a general term for the compound silicon dioxide (SiO2). Crystalline silica is the basic component of sand, quartz and granite rock. Occupational exposure to crystalline silica dust can produce silicosis, a dust disease of the lung. Inhalation of dusts that contain crystalline silica has also been associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and lung cancer.
High silica exposures have been found at counter top fabrication facilities as well as other businesses performing similar tasks on stone products, e.g., making tombstones. Worker exposure to silica-containing dust is dependent on a number of factors, including the amount of crystalline silica in the material, the specific tools being used, the amount of dust being generated by the tasks being performed with the material, and the use of measures, such as wet methods or ventilation, to control the amount of dust reaching the breathing zone of the worker.
Under this local emphasis program, the OSHA office in Wichita will randomly select for inspection, general industry workplaces where exposures to crystalline silica are possible due to such tasks as grinding, cutting, routing, drilling, chipping, or polishing on granite and other stone materials containing crystalline silica.
The agency's goal is to reduce employee exposures to silica-related hazards through education and increased awareness. Training and outreach opportunities will be coordinated by the Wichita OSHA office.
Employers, workers, professional associations and labor organizations may request information on the program by contacting the Wichita OSHA office at 316-269-6644, or toll-free in Kansas at 800-362-2896.