Key Takeaways

- This article describes the hazards of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in the construction industry.

- It summarizes the legislative history of OSHA’s RCS standards in the construction industry. The discussion provides context as to the development and modifications to the standards.

- Information is provided about the control measures OSHA requires in the workplace for workers exposed to RCS in the construction industry.

- OSHA’s enforcement history of the RCS standard (29 CFR 1926.1153) in the construction industry is also discussed.


Crystalline silica can be found in many materials and processes used in the construction industry. It is a common mineral found in construction materials such as sand, stone, concrete, brick and mortar (OSHA, 2017). Crystalline silica can also be found in abrasives used in abrasive blasting. In other words, if you work with a substance taken from the earth, there is a good chance it contains some crystalline silica.

Within its respirable crystalline silica (RCS) standard for the construction industry, OSHA created a table identifying job tasks that require control measures when working with materials containing crystalline silica. After reviewing available workplace sampling data, OSHA determined the potential worker exposure. This list of everyday job tasks includes 18 different tasks, ranging from using handheld power tools to using heavy equipment and crushing machines.

1. stationary masonry saws

2. handheld power saws

3. handheld power saws for cutting fiber-cement board

4. walk-behind saws

5. drivable saws

6. rig-mounted core saws or drills

7. handheld and stand-mounted drills

8. dowel drilling rigs for concrete

9. vehicle-mounted drilling rigs for rock and concrete

10. jackhammers and handheld powered chipping tools

11. handheld grinders for mortar removal (i.e., tuckpointing)

12. handheld grinders for uses other than mortar removal

13. walk-behind milling machines and floor grinders

14. small drivable milling machines

15. large drivable milling machines

16. crushing machines

17. heavy equipment and utility vehicles used to abrade or fracture silica-containing materials or used during demolition activities involving silica-containing materials

18. heavy equipment and utility vehicles for tasks such as grading and excavating but not including demolishing, abrading or fracturing silica-containing materials

The list is not all inclusive and many more construction tasks exist that are not noted in the table, such as hand feeding/mixing raw materials and residential flooring.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.