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Alternate description


Silica is crystalline quartz. It is commonly used in building materials, particularly cement. It is toxic to the skin and a significant danger for masons and cement workers. It is particularly dangerous when inhaled which can happen when hardened concrete is sawed or broken in maintenance or repair operations. The dust of these operations contains microscopic silica fibers that lodge in the lungs and eventually cause silicosis, a deadly and irreversible lung disease. Autoimmune disorders and chronic renal disease also can result from exposure to silica dust.

Studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) indicate that a working lifetime of exposure to legally permissible levels of respiratory silica significantly increases the risk of acquiring chronic silicosis. Thus, limiting exposures of Laborers to the hazards of silica, especially silica dust, is an important goal of the LHSFNA.

While OSHA’s draft silica standard for construction inches toward possible adoption, the Fund’s OSH Division works with signatory contractors to ensure effective company and site-specific silica dust exposure control programs. It publishes and supports a Model Silica Protection Program for Contractors and Face It: a Laborers’ Guide to Respiratory Protection. It provides training to signatory contractors and supports Laborer training through the LIUNA Training and Education Fund.

In addition, the Fund seeks ways to engineer silica out of the worksite. For instance, in a multi-year collaboration with the New Jersey Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund and a wide range of other partners, the LHSFNA supports on-going efforts to devise an effective and commercially practical mechanism for the wet-control of dust produced by jackhammers.

Our understanding of the dangers of silica go 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.