Industry Changes for 2018 - new OSHA regulations, skilled labor shortages, and plant material shortages.


OSHA Regulations on Silica Dust

Silica, also know as quartz, is a very common mineral that is found in many landscaping materials including sand, concrete, masonry, rock, and granite. When building hardscapes such as patios, walkways, and walls, there is often cutting, grinding, and drilling of these materials. This releases dust into the air that contains the tiny crystalline silica particles (100 times smaller than sand) that can cause health hazards when inhaled. Long term silica exposure can cause irreversible and life threatening diseases including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), silicosis (an incurable lung disease) and kidney disease.

Last Fall, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) began enforcing a new regulation of respirable levels of crystalline silica for workers. The purpose of the new standard is to reduce the amount of breathable silica dust workers are exposed to.

Employers are now required to

  1. limit worker exposure by using engineering controls, such as water or ventilation
  2. limit worker access to high exposure areas provide respirators when engineering controls can’t adequately limit exposure
  3. offer medical exams to highly exposed workers
  4. develop a written exposure control plan train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures
  5. Pay a $12,000 fine per person per exposure if caught by OSHA

Responsible companies in the industry have known about the dangers of breathing silica dust for some time, and many of us have already been protecting our crews by using dust control equipment, and other precautions.

Although it means higher costs for us, we have no complaints about the regulations, and we are glad that it is being enforced. Many in the industry did not realize the dangers and have been exposing themselves and others to harmful clouds of dust for years.

Last year we started using respirators and a powerful vacuum system to limit the dust when cutting. This year we are adding new dust free saws, dust free grinders, and generators to power it all. In some cases, we will be using water for cutting as well.

If you see a landscaping company working with saws or grinders surrounded by clouds of dust, not only are they polluting the air and making your home and vehicle dusty, they are also creating hazardous working conditions.