On December 15, the California Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board voted to approve emergency temporary standards on silica products to combat the surge in cases of silicosis, a serious and potentially fatal lung disease caused by silica dust exposure.
Silica is a common component of artificial and natural stone used in countertops for kitchens and bathrooms. Workers may be exposed while cutting, grinding, polishing, or sanding the stone during production, installation, or cleaning up after these tasks.
Find out if you may be eligible for compensation from a silicosis lawsuit now for free.
Around 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust on the job in the United States, according to the American Lung Association. After being exposed to silica dust, it can take years for symptoms of diseases like silicosis to appear.
Although less than five cases were reported in California each year from 2010 to 2018, the state has recognized 95 workers with silicosis since 2019. In fact, more than 20 cases were reported in 2022 alone, a drastic increase that’s led researchers to liken California to the epicenter of a potential epidemic.
With these new emergency rules, California officials are hoping to make a positive impact in protecting workers and creating a safer workplace.
“Adoption of the silica emergency temporary standard will absolutely save lives,” California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Chief Jeff Killip declared.
Learn about the new rules and their implications for worker health and safety.
What Are the New Rules for Silica in California?
In response to the rising silicosis crisis, California has introduced rigorous safety regulations to ensure the health and safety of workers. Employers in the state must comply with these standards or face fines and other legal repercussions after the rules take effect on December 29, 2023.
Previously, over 70% of stonecutting and fabrication shops were not following silica rules set for workplaces, leading the agency to adopt more clear policies along with stronger ways to enforce them.
Some of the new regulations in California include:
- Communicating silica exposure risks in ways that employees of all education levels can understand
- Implementing silica dust suppression measures via wet methods or vacuums with HEPA filters
- Providing appropriate respiratory protection to workers on the job
- Reporting any confirmed case of silicosis or another silica dust disease to Cal/OSHA and the California Department of Public Health within 24 hours
- Requiring dangerous workplaces to shut down immediately until they follow all regulations
The recently adopted emergency rules are specifically designed to protect workers in high exposure roles that involve cutting, grinding, drilling, or polishing artificial stone with more than 0.1% crystalline silica or natural stone with more than 10% crystalline silica as well as cleaning up the dust after these tasks.
Despite its growing popularity, artificial stone dust can be more hazardous for workers since it may contain upwards of 93% crystalline silica, which is more than double the amount in natural granite.
|Type of Stone Material
|Crystalline Silica Percentage
The higher concentrations of silica, the greater the risk for workers who may have been exposed to this dust. By providing greater protections, California employers may be able to reduce these risks and ensure a safer workplace.
Securing Silicosis Compensation in California
Sadly, the cost of treatment for silicosis and other silica dust diseases can be concerning or out of reach for many families, especially if insurance doesn’t cover everything — but silicosis compensation may be available.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with silicosis or another lung disease caused by silica dust, Sokolove Law may be able to help your family:
- Hold stone manufacturers and suppliers accountable for not providing a safe workplace
- Pursue compensation for your illness that can help pay for treatment
- Secure justice for what happened and potentially prevent others from experiencing the same