Silica Dust Control Frequently Asked Questions

Silica Dust Background and Health Impact

Q. What is crystalline silica?

A. Silica is one of the most prevalent elements on earth, along with oxygen. When these two elements combine, they create quartz and other forms of crystalline silica. Silica dust has a variety of important uses in several industries, but when tiny particles, a fraction the size of a grain of sand become airborne, it can be dangerous. (Amorphous silica, such a silica gel, is not crystal silica) Learn more from our article What is Silica Dust: 5 Things You Need to Know.

Q. What construction materials contain silica?

A. Crystalline silica is a component of many construction materials such as stone, concrete, cement, drywall, grout, mortar, industrial sand, tile, ceramic and brick. Learn more.

Q. Why is silica dust a hazard?

A. Silica dust becomes a problem when cutting, grinding, drilling, demoing, and tuckpointing construction materials. As a result, breathable silica dust is released into the air. Take a look at our OSHA Silica Dust Regulation Compliance whitepaper for more information.

Q. How can exposure to crystalline silica affect construction workers?

A. Inhaling nearly microscopic silica dust can cause serious, sometimes fatal diseases, including silicosis, tuberculosis, lung cancer, kidney disease and more. Learn more.

Q. What is silicosis?

A. Silicosis is a lung disorder that is caused by breathing in dust containing crystalline silica particles. Breathing in the microscopic particles causes the development of small lesions on lung tissue which severely restricts the absorption of oxygen. It is disabling, irreversible and sometimes fatal. For more information, take a look at our article, Silica Dust Exposure Symptoms – What to Look For.

Q. What are silica dust exposure symptoms?

A. Symptoms will vary depending on the volume of crystalline silica dust exposure. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, persistent cough, chest pain, and fatigue. For more information, take a look at our article, Silica Dust Exposure Symptoms – What to Look For.

Q. Which industries are affected?

A. The wide versatility of crystalline silica makes it a hazard within many construction and manufacturing industries including: general construction, fracking, foundries and more. View the full list of industries in the whitepaper OSHA Silica Dust Regulation Compliance.

New OSHA Silica Dust Standards

Q. What are the new OSHA silica dust standards?

A. The new standard involves two regulations:

  • 29 CFR 1926.1153: Respirable Crystalline Silica, for the construction industry
  • 29 CFR 1910.1053: Respirable Crystalline Silica, for general and maritime industries

Q. What is the silica regulation for the construction industry?

A. The construction industry must be compliant since September 23rd, 2017. The OSHA standard for silica dust requires employers to reduce or limit silica dust exposure to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air or lower, on average over an 8-hour shift. And, requires employers to use engineering controls to limit worker exposure. Learn more in our article Are You Aware of the OSHA Silica Standard? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Q. What is the silica regulation for the general and maritime industries?

A. The general and maritime industries will need to follow the same silica dust regulations as the construction industry as of September 23, 2018. One year after the construction industry’s effective date. Learn more.

Q. How will the crystalline silica rule protect workers’ health?

A. The 2 new standards will protect workers from exposure to respirable silica and possible health risks. Learn more.

Q. How many people will the new rule affect?

A. Agency officials believe the new OSHA rules will affect two million employees across the country.

Q. Where can I get more information about these new standards?

A. OSHA is the primary source of information for all silica dust collection guidelines and regulations. For more information, visit the links below:

Q. Where can I find help in my area?

A. OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program offers free and confidential safety and occupation health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in the United States. To learn more about the process, benefits and how an on-site visit works, visit their site:

What This Means for Affected Industries

Q. What should employers do to protect their employees?

A. In order reduce exposures and protect workers, employers should plan and train employees to employ dust control measures during all steps of construction processes where silica dust is present. The right silica dust collection systems can dramatically improve worker safety and jobsite air quality. Create a plan to control silica dust. And, take a look at the specified exposure control methods when working with materials containing crystalline silica by equipment in Table 1 for more specific information on how to protect employees.

Q. What is the best way to control drywall silica dust?

A. Employers and workers should employ dust control measures during all drywall preparation and finishing tasks. Learn more in our Drywall Dust Collection and Drywall Sanding Dust Control article.

Q. What is the best way to control silica dust created by power tools?

A. For construction jobs using power tools, the most effective method of controlling silica dust is by using a vacuum connected power tool to collect dust at the source. CS Unitec’s high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuums are 99.99% efficient, while our standard vacuums are 99.93% efficient – both well above OSHA mandates. Our system places the shroud and vacuum hose adjacent to the tool’s bit or blade, ensuring the silica dust is collected at the source, before it becomes airborne. Browse our selection of CS Unitec tools for silica dust collection and suppression.

It is each company’s responsibility to follow all OSHA, state and local safety regulations regarding the choice, operation and maintenance of power tools and dust collection/suppression systems. This includes power tools and systems used when working with materials containing crystalline silica.
Collect and suppress crystalline silica dust with CS Unitec power tools and vacuums.
For more information regarding silica dust control, take a look at our OSHA Silica Dust Regulations Compliance whitepaper.
Call us at 800-700-5919 to talk to a tool specialist or contact us with any questions.