OSHA, Silica Dust and the Roofing Contractor

April 22nd, 2016



tile cutting


TRA Snow and Sun makes products specifically designed to help with solar mounting and flashing needs on tile roofs and we are always concerned about safety for building owners and the roofing contractors who install our products.

Recently a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a “final rule to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica.” This new ruling will impact all contractors who cut tile roofing products.

Silica is a natural mineral present in large amounts in many construction materials like concrete roof tiles manufactured in the US by companies. It is broken into very fine dust (also known as Respirable Crystalline Silica or RCS) during common tasks such as cutting for valleys, hips, and when installing solar mounting.

Regularly breathing in this dust can cause serious lung disease like silicosis and lung cancer. Hundreds of deaths have been associated with silica dust absorbed into the body in this way.

OSHA’s new standards, taking effect June 23, 2016 (with a one year implantation requirement for construction work), will require roofers to either use water or ventilation to manage dust or provide respirators in high exposure areas: The Key Provisions of the ruling:

“Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.

Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.”

TRA Snow and Sun supports efforts to protect the health of roofers, however, using a wet saw on a roof means other risks including danger from hoses on the work surface and slip and fall hazards caused by water. For this reason, we support testing and respirators instead and a further review by OSHA.

For more information on this issue visit the National Roofing Contractors’ Association press release on this ruling.

Remember, also, that we make solar tile mounts that are installed WITHOUT CUTTING tiles. (See more about that here.)