The Safety, Health, and Environmental Services program at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute is using a $75,000 federal grant to create a pilot crystalline silica exposure training and materials program for the cut stone and stone fabrication industries.
The grant is one of 93 the U.S. Department of Labor’s Administration Occupational Safety and Health Administration awarded totaling more $11.6 million.
Derived from the Susan Harwood Workplace Safety and Health Training program, the grants awarded by OSHA in fiscal year 2021 are in the Targeted Topic Training, Training and Educational Materials Development, and Capacity Building categories. The grants are a critical part of OSHA’s effort to educate workers and assist employers.
The funding will support the one-year effort that targets small-business employers and underserved vulnerable workers in high-hazard industries. The specific focus is low/non-literate, limited-English speaking, and other at-risk workers. The training materials will be evaluated during the pilot period which includes 50 workers and employers. Training will be offered in English and Spanish.
Crystalline silica — or quartz — is a common mineral found in natural materials such as stone. Cutting, drilling, or grinding of stone creates a lot of dust, which includes particles of crystalline silica.
Inhaling crystalline silica can lead to serious and sometimes fatal illnesses, including tuberculosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Exposure to these particles has also been linked to kidney disease and cancers, including lung cancer.
Crystalline silica inhalation can also lead to silicosis, an irreversible and potentially fatal disease marked by the development of growths and scarring of the lungs. If the growths or nodules become too large, breathing can become labored and eventually lead to death.
“The risk of silicosis is high for workers in several industries, including the construction, cut stone, and stone fabrication industries,” said Jenny Houlroyd, the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services program’s occupational health services manager. “This effort is designed to give workers the essential tools and training to protect themselves and keep them as safe as possible.”