Respirable crystalline silica – get ready for the new OSHA regulations

President’s Letter – January 2018

I hope that you have heard this term before and have begun the process of understanding what it means and how it is affecting your business. Believe me when I say that it IS going to affect your business going forward and none of us knows exactly to what extent.

The NTCA has held seminars at Coverings, forums at TSP and published articles in TileLetter on this topic in the past year. Yet, it seems like we are just beginning to peel back the outer layers of the proverbial onion when it comes to understanding the regulation (29 CFR 1926.1153 Respirable Crystalline Silica), including “Table 1” – and what is NOT included in Table 1. Then we begin to see DOL issue “Standard Interpretations” and “Interim Enforcement Guidance” and it all gets very confusing.

From the NTCA perspective and as a business owner, I urge you to take this law very seriously. There are many reasons, but none more important than you and your employee’s safety and wellbeing. Secondly, this law is going to have a significant financial impact on your business either in compliance costs or if you ignore it, in non-compliance costs. As an employer, you should educate yourself so that you can make the appropriate business decisions for your company and make sure your bids include costs to work in compliance. If you are an employee or craft worker you should do the same so that you are aware of the risks that you are taking with you long term health. Visit this site for more information: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/silica
crystalline/ or http://bit.ly/2fI23os.

On the non-compliance side, a non-serious OSHA penalty was increased in 2016 to $12,600. If that doesn’t get your attention, a repeat violation penalty could be as high as $126,000.

At this point, based on the testing that we and others have done, I believe most tile installations can be done safely and in compliance with the newly imposed regulations with proper engineered controls and tools. The one area that remains a concern is performing circular cuts larger than 4” in diameter. If you have a proven solution for this, please email me.

As if this wasn’t enough to think about and absorb, California’s law called Prop 65 – which among many other things – is going to require manufacturers and/or re-sellers to put a warning label on every box of tile and bag of mortar and grout – basically anything that contains silica. This warning label will likely be different from manufacturer to manufacturer. We will not know the full impact of this until we see what the warning labels say, but you can bet it will not make our job any easier. It is also likely that these labels will appear on all products made for our industry regardless if they are made or shipped to California simply because the chance can’t be taken that an unlabeled product shows up in California.

It’s important that you know the NTCA staff and volunteers are working hard to minimize the negative impacts of these issues on all tile contractors. I urge all to take a very proactive approach to these issues and educate yourself as quickly as possible. At the end of the day, we want tile consumption to rise across America so we must be prepared to deal appropriately with these new requirements.

Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard, NTCA President
Committee member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

Martin Howard
NTCA President, Executive Vice President of David Allen Company at |

Martin Howard is the 2017 - 2018 president of NTCA and the Executive Vice President of David Allen Company and is an owner of the company.

Martin oversees the Tile, Stone and Pre-Construction Divisions, including all branch operations. He has more than 36 years’ experience in the construction industry including 12 years in general contracting and 24 years in David Allen Company, where he has had management responsibilities in every area of the company’s tile and marble operation.