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Silica

Alternate description

Silica is crystalline quartz. It is commonly used in building materials, particularly concrete and masonry products. It is toxic to the skin in materials such as cement, and is particularly dangerous when inhaled, which can happen when concrete is sawed, chipped, hammered or blasted in building, maintenance or demolition operations. The resulting dust contains microscopic silica fibers that lodge in the lungs and eventually cause silicosis, a deadly and irreversible lung disease. Silica exposure also increases risk for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), kidney disease and tuberculosis.

Exposure to silica is a significant danger for Laborers. Limiting Laborers' exposures to the hazards of silica, especially silica dust, is an important goal of the LHSFNA. Our understanding of the dangers of silica goes back more than a half century, and many of the worst practices have been eliminated. But the risks of even slight exposure are serious, and the Fund continues its efforts to get all silica dust out of the air that Laborers breathe.

OSHA's new silica standard went into effect on June 23, 2016, and enforcement begins June 23, 2017. The Fund’s OSH Division is already working to help LIUNA signatory contractors understand their compliance options and the rule's mandatory actions and requirements. The Fund offers several publications related to preventing silica exposure, including Preventing Silica Exposure in Construction and Face It: a Laborers’ Guide to Respiratory Protection. 

To find out more about silica and the new standard, see the individual topics pages below:

Controlling Exposures with Table 1

Sampling Requirements

Respirator and Medical Surveillance Requirements