OBERLIN, OH -- In July, the State of California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (CAL-OSHA) took steps to further protect stone industry employees against the dangers of silicosis. CAL-OSHA approved creation of an advisory committee to strengthen existing regulations through an emergency measure with a priority to address dry-cutting and dry-polishing activities utilized by some fabricators. In short, these dry-cutting and dry-polishing activities will likely face stricter guidelines and/or a ban.

As an emergency measure, CAL-OSHA intends to assemble new regulations over a two-to-four-month period. Key industry leaders, including the Natural Stone Institute, will be participating in the process to lend expertise and assistance. Citing the abundance of silica awareness training resources available from NSI and others, the committee is advocating an approach based on education, monitoring and enforcement.  

Fortunately, silicosis is completely preventable through the use of well-established industrial hygiene controls. 

The industry recognizes that wet cutting procedures in combination with other controls are needed to effectively maintain exposure below dangerous levels. Stone companies must diligently follow well-established air quality state and federal requirements and regulations.  Involvement by industry with CAL-OSHA creates a public/private partnership of manufacturers, stone distributors and fabricators working closely with regulators to ensure employee safety and eliminate unsafe work environments.

Some have suggested a ban on select products containing silica is warranted. The vast list of many common products that contain silica, including concrete, brick, plaster, glass and a wide variety of other products, makes it impractical to focus on the product. Product bans do not address the primary issue, which is adherence to safe cutting/polishing measures, coupled with air monitoring and employee education.  

We will continue to provide updates on this timely topic. As more people become aware of the threat of silicosis and learn about the CAL-OSHA action items, we encourage stone companies to remind customers that silicosis is not a danger to homeowners or other end-users. Make sure your company is following best practices and keeping employees safe. These issues will be in the front of mind for many customers. 

To access information and safety training resources, the NSI offers resources at the following sites: www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/safety and www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/silica. Stone professionals are also encouraged to achieve the NSI’s Silica and Slab Safety Certificate at www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/safetycertificate.