OSHA, Silica and the Construction Industry

OSHA, Silica and the Construction Industry

Source: Roger E. Cloutier


Silica dust is what is produced when concrete, bricks, blocks, etc are cut, and while it might seem harmless, it contains crystalline silica. The existence of crystalline silica and the hazards it can cause to a worker’s body – silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease – has been known for decades. That is why American Diamond Blades Corporation has been developing solutions to control dust for decades.

Since OSHA released the final ruling on crystalline silica exposure on March 23, 2016, how to control this dust has been a major concern for contractors. Mostly because the ruling places a lot of weight on the contractor’s shoulders, but American Diamond Blades Corporation is here to support you with information and products to assist with compliance.

We always work towards finding the best solution for our customers – from both an efficiency standpoint and from a worker’s view. OSHA has been working on a final ruling for the past several years, and since the first ruling on silica exposure American Diamond Blades Corporation has been working to develop ways to suppress the crystalline silica and keep workers more safe.


Enforcement Effective:           September 23, 2017

The final OSHA ruling revises the amount of crystalline silica a worker should be exposed to. The key takeaways of the ruling include:

The permissible exposure limit will be set at 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight hour shift.

Employers will be required to take measures to control silica, either through using water, dust collection systems, ventilation or providing respirators.
Employers will also be required to limit the amount of time a worker can be exposed to hazardous environments, write an exposure control plan, designate a competent person, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers and train workers on the risks and how to avoid silica dust.

Penalty Amounts Adjusted for Inflation as of January 13, 2017

Type of violationMaximum penalty
 Serious/other than serious posting requirements  $12,675.00 per violation
 Failure to abate  $12,675.00 per day beyond abatement date
 Wilful or repeated violations  $126,749.00 per violation

Penalty amounts listed above may change.
For more information on OSHA penalty guidelines visit: https://www.osha.gov/silica/

A critical deadline is approaching for the construction industry:
Employers have until September to comply with OSHA’s strict new regulations concerning crystalline silica dust.

Crystalline silica is found widely in construction materials such as concrete, cement, mortar, brick and stone. When these materials are cut, drilled or ground, they produce dust that may contain small, respirable particles of crystalline silica, which has been linked to serious respiratory diseases like silicosis and COPD.

In 2016, OSHA announced a drastic change to the regulations for silica dust exposure. This change, aimed to protect workers, slashes the exposure limit by 80%. What that means is, effective September 23, 2017, the maximum amount of respirable crystalline silica that workers are allowed to encounter is one-fifth of the former limit. As a result, employers in the construction industry are scrambling to comply with the tight standard before the deadline.

Although the new regulations are very detailed, OSHA has tried to make compliance straightforward by providing specific requirements for the dust control methods needed for each work task. For example, when cutting with handheld power saws, like the Norton Clipper CP514-350i or STIHL TS420, workers must use an “integrated water delivery system that continuously feeds water to the blade” in order to suppress dust. [1]

Identical controls are needed when using walk-behind saws, core drills, and stationary masonry saws. In addition, depending on the work task and environment, employees may be required to wear respiratory protection.

The full list of work tasks and safety requirements is available on the OSHA website. Reading the list, it becomes apparent that wet systems are usually required, but for jobs that demand dry cutting or drilling, this presents a problem: How can workers comply with OSHA and still get the job done?

Well, OSHA has given employers the option to use their own dust control methods— for example, dry vacuum systems — provided these employers “assess and limit the exposure of the employee to respirable crystalline silica in accordance with [the standard].” [1] This is a cumbersome task, but it will be necessary when water is out of the question.

Like many OSHA changes in the past, the new silica standard will cause an entire industry to adapt, and those who can provide the right information, tools and equipment to construction workers will be in high demand.

If you or your customers have questions related to the new standard, we encourage you to read the helpful links below, or to contact the American Diamond Blades Corporation Product Safety Department directly.


Helpful links

  • OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Rule: Construction — click here
  • OSHA’s Silica Homepage — click here



  1. OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1926.1153, accessed online at https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=1270


For additional information on this topic or if you need any other abrasive safety information, please review ANSIOSHA and all literature provided by the abrasive wheel and machine manufacturer. You may also contact the American Diamond Blades Corporation Product Safety Department at Tel: (561) 571-22166 or email at support@AmericanDiamondBlades.com or contact your American Diamond Blades Corporation representative with any safety related questions.