Silica Dust Safety program

Silicosis is caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust. Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite and most types of rock, and is used as an abrasive blasting agent.

The effects of Silicosis include lung cancer, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and skin/renal disease.

Symptoms of Silicosis include shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, chest pain, ongoing cough, and respiratory failure.

Sources of silica dust include sandblasting, crushing/drilling rock and concrete, masonry and concrete work, demolition work, and cement/asphalt manufacturing.

If exposure to respirable silica dust is expected, EHS should be contacted to perform exposure monitoring. Exposure monitoring measures the amount of silica dust an employee is exposed to during normal job duties. The Action Level for silica exposure is 25 micrograms/cubic meter; and the Permissible Exposure Limit is 50 micrograms/cubic meter.

  • Employees exposed to silica at levels less than the Action Level do not require periodic monitoring and are not required to use engineering controls to reduce exposure.
  • Employees exposed to silica at levels above the Action Level, but less than the Permissible Exposure Limit, must be monitored every 6 months
  • Employees exposed to silica at levels above the Permissible Exposure Limit must be monitored every 3 months

When exposure to silica dust exceeds the exposure limits, engineering controls are the preferred method for controlling exposure. Typical controls may include

  • Local/General exhaust ventilation
  • Vacuum methods with HEPA filtration
  • Dust control products
  • Use of water to keep dust out of the breathing zone

If engineering controls are ineffective at maintaining silica levels below the PEL, a respirator may be required to protect employees.

In areas where silica containing dust may be present, all surfaces must be maintained free from accumulations of dust to minimize potential silica exposure. Dust and other silica containing debris must be removed from the work area as soon as possible.

  • Unacceptable methods of silica dust removal include dry sweeping, vacuum cleaners, shop vacuums, and compressed air.
  • Follow all recommended procedures and utilize recommended PPE during silica containing debris cleanup activities.
  • PPE should be removed upon work completion and disposed of after each use.
  • Employees must wash hands and are recommended to shower prior to leaving work.
  • Ensure contaminated PPE, including footwear is not worn outside the work areas.

Click on the buttons below for useful links related to the OSU Silica Dust Safety Program

To access the online training module for this Safety Program visit:

For questions concerning the Silica Dust Safety Program feel free to contact OSU EHS at 614-292-1284 or visit:

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