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Silica Dust Control

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Crystalline silica is a mineral found in common construction materials such as concrete, brick, mortar, and stone. Actions such as drilling, cutting, crushing, grinding, and blasting create airborne crystalline silica dust that workers may breathe into their lungs; according to OSHA, more than two million construction workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust every year. Respirable crystalline silica dust particles are 100 times smaller than ordinary sand, and can travel deep into workers’ lungs and become permanently lodged there, potentially leading to silicosis—an incurable and sometimes fatal lung disease—as well as lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and kidney disease.


Workers who are exposed to any quantity of crystalline silica dust are at an increased health risk. With that in mind, OSHA recently enacted new standards to protect workers. In effect since September 2017, OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standard for construction (OSHA Rule 1926.1153), requires employees to have a silica dust control plan in place to limit worker exposure to this potentially hazardous substance and mitigate the presence of silica dust in the air.

Read OSHA’s respirable silica dust control compliance guide and compliance summary for more details.

New OSHA PEL & Respirable Silica Dust Control Requirements

The previous OSHA PEL (permissible exposure limit) for crystalline silica dust, established in 1971, required that dust particles be limited to 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over an average of eight hours. The new OSHA silica standard lowers the PEL to 50 micrograms over the same length of time.

In addition to the lowered PEL, the OSHA silica standard also requires that contractors:

  • Establish a written silica dust control plan that includes the following items:
    • Descriptions of all tasks that involve exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust
    • Descriptions of the controls for each of the above tasks (engineering, work practices, respiratory protection)
    • Descriptions of the housekeeping practices used to limit worker exposure to crystalline silica dust
  • Designate a competent person to implement that plan
  • Utilize silica dust control tools or other feasible practices to limit the amount of dust in the air
  • Offer medical exams (including lung-function tests and x-rays) every three years for employees whose crystalline silica dust exposure requires the use of respirators 30 days or more per year
  • Train workers on respirable silica dust control and avoidance
  • Maintain detailed records of silica dust exposure measurements, objective data, and related employee medical exams

However, if initial assessment of a company’s crystalline silica dust levels returns readings of below 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the company will not be required to develop a written control plan, provide medical tests, or implement any engineering controls (wearing respirators, using specialized silica dust control tools, etc.).

OSHA’s Table 1 identifies 18 common construction tasks that require some form of respirable silica dust control. It lists the task, the length of time the task may be performed, and if additional protection, such as respirators, is required to maintain compliance.

Most of the tasks in Table 1 require the use of water/wetting or specialized vacuum cleaners and attachments to collect crystalline silica dust. Vacuums must use HEPA-rated filters and include automatic reverse-flow functions to keep filters clean.

Table 1 tasks include the use of:

  1. Handheld power saws
  2. Handheld grinders for tasks other than mortar removal
  3. Handheld power saws for cutting fiber-cement board
  4. Jackhammers or handheld powered chipping tools
  5. Handheld and stand-mounted drills
  6. Stationary masonry saws
  7. Handheld grinders for mortar removal (tuckpointing)
  8. Walk-behind saws
  9. Drivable saws
  10. Rig-mounted core saws or drills
  11. Dowel drilling rigs for concrete
  12. Vehicle-mounted drilling rigs for rock and concrete
  13. Walk-behind milling machines and floor grinders
  14. Small (less than half-lane) drivable milling machines
  15. Large (half lane and larger) drivable milling machines
  16. Crushing machines
  17. Heavy equipment and utility vehicles during demolition activities
  18. Heavy equipment and utility vehicles for grading and excavating
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Methods of Compliance for the New OSHA Silica Standard

Option 1: Specified Exposure Control Methods

For every worker performing a task identified in OSHA Rule 1926.1153 Table 1, the employer must fully and properly implement engineering practices, work practices, and respiratory protection methods specified.

Option 2: Performance Option

For each employee, the employer must assess the TWA (time-weighted average) exposure to crystalline silica dust over an 8-hour period. TWA is determined on the basis of air monitoring data, objective data, or any combination of both that provides data that is sufficient to accurately characterize employee exposure.

Option 3: Scheduled Self-Monitoring

For control methods not listed in Table 1 for which no objective data is available, employers must implement a respirable silica dust control program to show that employee exposure levels are below the OSHA PEL. The employer must perform initial testing to calculate the 8-hour TWA of exposure for each employee, on the basis of one (or more) personal breathing zone air samples. Samples must accurately reflect exposure of employees on each shift, for each task, and in each work area.

Objective Tool Data

Employers may also use what is known as objective data on tools supplied by a manufacturer. This requires the manufacturer to provide data on any tool that doesn’t meet requirements listed under Table 1 but that still collects silica dust to a certain degree. Employer must reference the tool’s objective data to determine the level of exposure a worker will experience while using it. Many tools in this category will expose a worker to some level of crystalline silica dust; however, if the tool’s use is limited to a select time period and the worker is not exposed to more silica dust throughout their workday, it is possible to maintain compliance with the OSHA silica standard when exposure is averaged over an 8-hour shift.

Alaska’s #1 Supplier of Silica Dust Control Tools

Denali Industrial Supply stocks a huge inventory of silica dust control tools from DeWalt, Makita, and Milwaukee. We offer individual tools, as well as tool kits that include the tool, accessories, a carrying case, and more. Our selection includes:

  • Grinders
  • Rotary hammers
  • Demo hammers
  • Congrete planers
  • HEPA vacuums and HEPA filters
  • Dust extraction attachments and accessories
  • Surface grinding dust traps/shrouds
  • Cutting guards
  • and more

View our full inventory to find the right silica dust control tools for your application, or use the filters at left to refine your search. See individual product listings for additional information and specifications.




Contact Us for Silica Dust Control Tools & More

With locations in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and more than 100 options to choose from, Denali Industrial Supply is Alaska’s leading resource for respirable silica dust control tools. Place your order today, request a quote, or contact us to learn more.