2017 OSHA Silica Exposure Rule-1926.1153 Construction Industry

What Is Silica Dust?

Basically concrete or other stone dust. Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in many naturally occurring materials and used in many industrial products and at construction sites. Materials like sand, concrete, stone and mortar contain crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is also used to make products such as glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks, concrete and artificial stone. Industrial sand used in certain operations, such as foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), is also a source of crystalline silica exposure. Amorphous silica, such as silica gel, is not crystalline silica. 

How Can Silica Affect My Health?

Inhaling very small ("respirable") crystalline silica particles causes multiple diseases, including silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability and death. Respirable crystalline silica also causes lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease. There is strong scientific evidence showing that exposure to respirable crystalline silica can increase a person's risk of developing lung cancer. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer - the leading international voice on cancer causation - and the National Institutes of Health's National Toxicology Program have conducted extensive reviews of the scientific literature and have designated crystalline silica as a known human carcinogen. The American Cancer Society has adopted the WHO and NIH's determinations. More than 50 peer-reviewed epidemiological studies that OSHA evaluated for this rulemaking have examined the link between silica exposure and lung cancer in at least 10 industries. In particular, several studies of workers in specific industrial sectors support the link between exposure to respirable crystalline silica and lung cancer among workers.


Who is at Risk?

Around 2.3 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica on the job. Simply being near sand or other silica-containing materials is not hazardous. The hazard exists when specific activities create respirable dust that is released into the air. Respirable (breathable) crystalline silica - very small particles typically at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand found on beaches or playgrounds - is generated by high-energy operations like cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling and crushing stone, rock, concrete, brick, block and mortar; or when using industrial sand. Activities such as abrasive blasting with sand; sawing brick or concrete; sanding or drilling into concrete walls; grinding mortar; manufacturing brick, concrete blocks, or ceramic products; and cutting or crushing stone generates respirable dust.

Construction Industry Compliance Dates-CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY, 1926.1153

Employers are required to comply with all obligations of the standard (except methods of sample analysis) by June 23, 2017. OSHA extended the date to September 23, 2017. Employers are required to comply with methods of sample analysis by June 23, 2018.



  • Construction
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Pottery products
  • Structural clay products
  • Concrete products
  • Foundries
  • Dental laboratories
  • Paintings and coatings
  • Jewelry production
  • Refractory products
  • Ready-mix concrete
  • Cut stone and stone products
  • Abrasive blasting in maritime, construction, and general industry
  • Refractory furnace installation and repair
  • Railroad transportation
  • Oil and gas operations


Specified Exposure Control Method (Table 1)

  1. Fully and properly implement Table 1 
    If you use Table 1 you do not have to comply with the air sampling requirements of the rule. 
    If you use Table 1 you do not have to conduct exposure assessments for employees engaged in those tasks. 
    Employers are required to ensure that controls are present and maintained and that employees. understand the proper use of those controls and use them accordingly
  2. Develop a written exposure control plan
  3. Designate a Competent Person
  4. Train supervisors and workers and communicate hazards on silica risks and how to limit exposures
  5. Use specific engineering controls (such as wet methods, HEPA vacquums, shrouds and ventilation) 
    Maximum PEL (permissible exposure limit) exposure allowed-50 mcg. per cubic liter 
    Action Level is 25 mcg. per cubic liter Provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure
  6. Limit worker access to high exposure areas
  7. Medical surveillance (exams) must be offered for employees required by the standard to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year
  8. Keep records of workers' silica exposure and medical exams (for thirty years after exposure)

Definitions: Assigned Protection Factor (APF) means the workplace level of respiratory protection that a respirator or class of respirators is expected to provide to employees when the employer implements a continuing, effective respiratory protection program as specified by this section.

Action Limits are used by OSHA and NIOSH to express a health or physical hazard. They indicate the level of a harmful or toxic substance/activity which requires medical surveillance, increased industrial hygiene monitoring, or biological monitoring. Action levels are generally set at one half of the permissible exposure limit (PEL), but the actual level may vary from standard to standard. The intent is to identify a level at which the vast majority of randomly sampled exposures will be below the PEL. 
TWA- A TWA is the average exposure over a specified period, usually a nominal eight hours. This means that, for limited periods, a worker may be exposed to concentration excursions higher than the PEL, so long as the TWA is not exceeded and any applicable excursion limit is not exceeded. 




Performance or "Objective Data" Method

  • The performance option gives employers flexibility to determine the 8-hour TWA exposure for each employee based on any combination of air monitoring data or objective data that can accurately characterize employee exposures to respirable crystalline silica. Air monitoring data are any results of air monitoring (analyzed according to the procedures and requirements in Appendix A) that the employer has done to meet the requirements of the standard. Objective data is information that demonstrates employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica associated with a particular product or material or a specific process, task, or activity. The data must reflect workplace conditions that closely resemble or could result in higher exposures than the processes, types of material, control methods, work practices, and environmental conditions in the employer's current operations.
  • Also follow steps 2 through 8 table one method.
  • Refer to www.osha.gov/silica for more information



Alternative Exposure Control Method

  • Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it may be at or above an action level of 25 μg/m3 (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day. Repeat on regular basis.
  • Refer to 1926.1153, Respirable Crystalline Silica with Appendix A, Methods of Sample Analysis, www.osha.gov/silica
  • Also follow steps 2 through 8 of table one method. 

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