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Release Number: 2024-37
Date: May 15, 2024

California Adds Safeguards to Protect Workers Against Silicosis

Cal/OSHA Educates Stone Industry About Dangers of Silica Dust

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is increasing awareness of the dangers of being exposed to silica dust while working with man-made and natural stone.

Sacramento—California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is increasing efforts to address the growing number of silicosis cases among stone workers in California. Man-made stone that is frequently used contains higher concentrations of crystalline silica that can severely scar lung tissue when inhaled.

With cases of silicosis increasing in California, Cal/OSHA has further intensified its enforcement and education efforts. On December 14, 2023, an emergency temporary standard was adopted to enhance existing guidelines for respirable crystalline silica hazards. Since then, Cal/OSHA has closed several stone cutting shops in the state that were not providing proper safety protections for their employees. A public meeting is scheduled on May 16 to consider a revised proposal for readoption of the emergency temporary standard to protect workers from the hazards of silica dust.

DIR and Cal/OSHA recently launched a bilingual public awareness and education campaign that offers employers and workers resources and information about the proper use of safety equipment and safe worksite practices. The campaign website, worksafewithsilica.org also provides vital information for workers on workplace safety rights and how to report safety violations.

Since 2019, more than 100 California stone workers have developed silicosis, with at least 10 deaths among workers under the age of 40. DIR and Cal/OSHA are reducing the risk of silicosis through advocacy, education and enforcement.

WHY IT MATTERS: Cal/OSHA’s workplace safety laws and emergency temporary standard are key components to ensure that workers are safe. Increasing awareness to employers and employees of the dangerous effects of inhaling respirable crystalline silica dust from tasks like grinding, drilling and cutting, can help save lives and avoid incurable health conditions like silicosis, lung cancer and kidney diseases.

WHAT DIR Director Katie Hagen said: “The startling uptick in deadly silicosis cases in our state underscores the necessity to protect workers from this fatal disease. Man-made stone products with high silica content, like countertops, can only be fabricated safely with proper safety equipment and practices, such as water systems, safe cleaning of dust and debris and the use of the best respiratory protection available. Failure to follow these life-saving practices can have grave consequences for some of California’s most vulnerable workers. Our department, through Cal/OSHA, is proactively working to educate employers on safe worksite practices, enforcing regulatory standards, and warning workers of its hazards.”

Prevent silicosis poster.

Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California. Employers with questions or who need assistance with workplace health and safety programs can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at (800) 963-9424, their local Cal/OSHA Consultation Office, or email InfoCons@dir.ca.gov

Complaints about workplace safety and health hazards can be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA district offices. Workers who have questions about workplace hazards and protections can call 833-579-0927 to speak with a Cal/OSHA representative during normal business hours. 

Media Contact: Communications@dir.ca.gov, (510) 286-1161