Silica Health Hazards in the Workplace

What is Silica? 

Silica is a naturally occurring mineral commonly found in sand and rock. Silica is found in sand, sandstone, granite, quartz, stone and rock aggregates, clay, shale, and slate. It is used everywhere from industrial applications to building materials.  

Why Is Silica Dangerous? 

When a worker cuts, grinds, or drills materials; dangerous crystalline silica dust is released into the air, which puts the worker at risk of illness.  Silica is harmful when it becomes an airborne dust and when workers breathe in silica dust. Silica damage builds up slowly over time and the worker often has no awareness that exposure is causing serious lung issues. 

What are the Effects of Silica Dust Inhalation?

If precautions are not taken to protect workers from exposure to silica dust, chronic long-term illness can result.  

Silica crystals are breathed in and travel into the lungs, this causes multiple diseases. The lung disease most commonly associated with silica exposure in the lungs is silicosis. In silicosis, the crystals are absorbed by the fragile lung sacs and form scar tissue. The scar tissue builds up over time effecting lung function and breathing.  

Respirable crystalline silica also causes lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease. Exposure to respirable crystalline silica is related to the development of autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular impairment.   

The more frequent the exposure to silica and the higher the concentration of silica dust in the air will increase the risk for development of silica related diseases. Controls are critical in prevention.  

Who Needs To Be Concerned About Silica Health Hazards in the Workplace?

Construction, mining and manufacturing workers are at risk of silica exposure and should be mindful of occupational silica hazards. This includes: 

  • Road construction and maintenance
  • Concrete cutting or coring
  • Concrete placing, surfacing, finishing and repair
  • Concrete product manufacturing
  • Stone or marble cutting and manufacturing
  • Structural concrete product manufacturing
  • Clay digging or processing
  • Diamond, seismic or shot hole drilling
  • Quarry
  • Stone crushing

How to Mitigate the Occupational Hazards of Silica 

If you work in any of the occupations listed above, it is important that your employer has a silica dust exposure control plan in place to prevent the long-term effects of silica. If your business frequently comes into contact with silica, contact Chemscape Safety Technologies today to learn how we can help you develop a customized exposure control plan.


Elevate the level of occupational health standards for your company.