NAHB Safety Card Helps Builders Avoid Silica Hazards
To help employers and their workers minimize exposure to silica, NAHB has developed a safety card on “Silica Hazards in Home Building.” Available in English and Spanish, the card provides a general overview of silicosis, its symptoms, recommendations for reducing or eliminating exposure, and additional silica-related resources.
More than 1 million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica, and each year more than 250 American workers die with silicosis, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
To download the NAHB safety card, click here.
Silicosis is lung damage caused by inhaling dust containing crystalline silica, which is found in materials such as concrete, masonry, rock, ceramic tile and drywall joint compound. Lung damage can result when workers breathe in the fine dust that is suspended in the air when these materials are cut, sanded or ground.
Sandblasting, rock drilling, masonry work, jack hammering and tunneling are some of the activities in the construction industry that pose the greatest potential risk for worker exposure. Workers who cut fiber cement siding, remove paint and rust from surfaces, work with stone or clay, and etch or frost glass may also be at risk of overexposure.
Chronic silicosis is the most common form of the disease, and usually occurs after 10 or more years of exposure. Silica dust in the lungs can hamper the body’s ability to fight off infections, and workers are more vulnerable to certain illnesses such as tuberculosis.
Affected workers may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath following physical exertion
- Severe cough
- Loss of appetite
- Chest pains
While there is no cure for silicosis, it is 100% preventable if employers and workers take appropriate safety precautions and reduce or eliminate exposure.
OSHA Inspections Target Silica
In January, the U.S. U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to reduce employee exposure to crystalline silica. Under the program, OSHA’s field staff inspection efforts will target work sites likely to create high silica exposure — including those in the home building industry.
For more information on the OSHA program, click here.
The safety card on silica is the first in a series of cards being made available by NAHB to provide employers and their workers with safety and health information on emerging topics. To access the safety cards section on NAHB's Web site, click here.
NAHB works with OSHA to provide the residential construction industry with information, guidance and access to training resources to help them protect employees' health and safety.
Through BuilderBooks, NAHB offers a comprehensive set of resources that are geared towards helping companies improve the safety awareness and practices of their employees. To see all of NAHB’s safety resources available through BuilderBooks, go to: www.builderbooks.com/safety.
For more information on NAHB safety resources, e-mail Kevin Cannon, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8590.