By Brent I. Clark and Craig B. Simonsen

iStock_000062437178MediumOSHA and its sister agency the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have just released a “Hazard Alert” on Worker Exposure to Silica During Countertop Manufacturing, Finishing and Installation.

We had previously blogged about NIOSH’s “Hazard Alert” for Worker Exposure to Silica During Hydraulic Fracturing. In addition, solidifying OSHA’s interest in regulating the silica across all industries, we had blogged about OSHA’s proposed Silica Worker Exposure Hazards Rule. 78 Fed. Reg. 56274 (September 12, 2013).

The Countertop Manufacturing Hazard Alert indicates that the Agency’s “have identified exposure to silica as a health hazard to workers involved in manufacturing, finishing and installing natural and manufactured stone countertop products, both in fabrication shops and during in-home finishing/installation. This hazard can be mitigated with simple and effective dust controls in most countertop operations.” In its research NIOSH found that, in the study groups, more than seventy percent of countertop shops in three metropolitan areas reported using “predominantly dry methods in at least one step of their work.”

Employers in these effected industries may wish to study the Hazard Alert carefully to determine any likely impacts on their businesses. Employers should take steps to ensure that they are in compliance with OSHA and local laws and regulations. Proactive steps in the face of this regulatory scrutiny now may allow the company to avoid costly enforcement and litigation in the future.