Back to Silica, Crystalline - Construction
Ellen I. Roznowski
Exposure to crystalline silica can occur in the following construction activities:
Recent Case examples in construction:
- Chipping, hammering, and drilling in rock or concrete or brick
- Crushing, loading, hauling, and dumping of rock and concrete
- Abrasive blasting using silica sand or from the materials being blasted (concrete)
- Sawing, hammering, drilling, grinding, and/or chipping on masonry or concrete
- Demolition of brick, concrete, or masonry
- Dry sweeping concrete, sand, or rock dust
- Trenching and excavation
- Tile and grout work
Three Current OSHA Cases:
- 39 year old sandblaster diagnosed with silicosis and tuberculosis after 22 years of
abrasive blasting. He began noticing gradual shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest
discomfort. Lung tissue samples showed extensive fibrosis (silicosis)
- 49 year old man diagnosed with silicosis, emphysema, and asthma after 21 years of work
as a tile installer where he was exposed to dust from cutting, drilling, and working with
grout. He was a nonsmoker.
- A brick mason was diagnosed with silicosis, emphysema, and lung cancer at age 70 after
working 41 years laying brick. He was a nonsmoker.
- Rock Driller. A 47 year old man was diagnosed with severe silicosis after working 22
years as a rock driller.
- Tunnel worker. 69 year old male died of silicosis after working two years as a tunnel
construction worker. Previous to that he was a nurse. He did not wear a respirator nor did
he know of the need to wear one.
- Building Renovation Mason. A 55 year old man was diagnosed with simple silicosis after
working 30 years as a mason. A lung biopsy revealed silica nodules, but he was still
working. He periodically was involved with sand blasting and using a masonry saw.
- Sandblasting in Texas, a physician reported on three individuals with silicosis who sand
blasted pipes in the oil fields. One of the workers, a 34 year old male later died from
silicosis. A later investigation found 10 workers with silicosis who did construction
sandblasting. Nine of the workers worked for the same company. Seven (7) were under the
age of 30.
OSHA Enforcement Information for Construction:
- New England: Employer using Black Beauty to blast concrete, Overexposures to crystalline
silica were 1.4 times the PEL, chipping on concrete, found levels greater than 6 times the
PEL, percent silica in the samples was 19-21%.
Also found that employer was aware of the hazards of silica, had not provided
information and training, workers wore unapproved respirators with beards.
A consultant also found that workers wearing abrasive blasting hoods were overexposed
inside the blast helmet.
- On another construction site - workers doing abrasive blasting were exposed to up to 90%
silica and were found to be 80 times the PEL.
- Region V - Cleveland. Willful violations for silica used in abrasive blasting,
Inspection was initiated from an employee complaint filed by the attorney for the worker.
The worker has silicosis and only recently stopped working.
From 1985 through 1990, 11% of the workplace deaths due to silicosis
where silicosis was identified on the death certificates was in the construction industry.
OSHA Inspection Information: Includes State plan state and federal enforcement data:
26% of all OSHA samples collected in Construction for crystalline silica exceed the OSHA PEL in 1993 and 1994.
inspection data from: Oct. 1, 1985 through Sept. 30, 1996
OSHA Sampling Data From the SLC Data Base for Construction:
Total Inspection where overexposures to crystalline silica were cited = 128
43 of these inspections were the result of complaints
53 of the inspections were referrals
14 of the inspections were planned
18 inspections were follow-up or referrals where overexposures to silica were cited again
Note: This data base is mostly from the 1980's and early 1990's, new OSHA sampling data
has not been added for several years. I suspect it would still be very similar.
||Type of Industry
||No. Of Samples
||Highway & Street Const.
||Bridge, Tunnel, Elevated Hwy
||Painting and Paper hanging
||Masonry and Stone
||Plastering, drywall, insulation
||Floor laying and work
||Wrecking and demolition
||Misc, Special trades