You know one of the first pieces I ever did for Building Moxie was on the EPA’s Lead Regulation & what it meant for those DIYing or hiring contractors. JB (editor at Building Moxie) asked if I would chime in on the updated §1926.1153 Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard. It went into effect on June 23rd 2017 and has been receiving a lot of press lately.

In short, they dropped the allowable amount of dust one can breathe by 80% – from 250 to 50. While certain organizations were not able to get it stricken, the enforcement of it was delayed till September 23rd 2017. This extension allowed for additional training & outreach.

As a homeowner working on your own house this along with many other items (like the RRP mentioned above) quite simply don’t apply to you.

Hiring a contractor, well, in many cases – these standards, statues, regulations, etc. pretty much guarantee to add some cost to a project. Along those lines, even though it doesn’t apply to you there are items well worth checking out.

What is Silica Dust & Who Cares:

Just what is silica dust & why should I care?

Well, if you want the official definition you can find it here (full statue & definitions). But in layman’s term –  it is dirt. Well specifically, silicon dioxide, which is naturally occurring in quartz, granite, glass, etc. It is used in making concrete, pottery, grinding powders and the list goes on.

The problem – just like many things, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. In this case, silicosis (incurable lung disease). Interestingly, one of the terms for this disease is called Potters Rot. But according to some, the original “potters rot,” though, involved lead and the glazing used.

Table 1 – a Contractor’s (& Your) Best Friend

Like many OSHA regulations that involve anything relating to breathing, they love “monitoring.” For many monitoring is not only expensive, but can be misleading. Welcome to Table 1 – if you do X, you don’t have to worry about monitoring. But in simple terms – Hey, this can protect you.

Below is a quick list of common Items (& Tasks) and the protection required.
Respirators Required By Construction Task

What is APF 10?

Interestingly, OSHA has changed up their Respiratory Guidelines. Instead of calling out certain filters (like a P95 or N95), they now call out APF’s or “minimum” Assigned Protection Factors. In Table 1, the two most called out are APF 10 & APF 25. In case you are wondering, APF 25 is a partial mask with air delivery. As that is hard to get, you can always jump up to the full mask as shown in the illustration below.

Editor’s Note
: APF 10 does not include “nuisance dust masks”. For more on this and other types of dust masks/respirators, see the author’s post Safety Sunday: Dust Masks vs Respirators.

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Tips for Managing Silica Dust in Masonry Projects 

I noticed that jack hammering, using grinders, etc. are not listed. And Shoot! What happens if I don’t have a dust shroud for drilling?

Well here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Try to always cut, use a grinder, or drill outside.
  • Use a fan to blow dust away from you, open windows / intakes, cars, etc.
  • If inside, close off the area with plastic & use two fans – one to blow air into the area & one to blow the dirty air out.
  • A HEPA vacuum is best for cleaning up dust (in drilling holes / left over from grinding). A regular shop vac can recirculate the dust back out.
    • Don’t have access to one, use a drywall dust bag & HEPA filter.
  • Speaking of HEPA vacs, having a second person who holds the hose close to the area being worked on can help cut down on the dust released.
  • If there is any doubt, throw on a respirator.


Thanks out to good friend and contributor Sean Lintow, Sr. for getting to the bottom of this recent change. His wildly informative site is called The Homeowner & Trades Resource Center (HTRC for short). You may find all of his past contributions to Building Moxie, here. And we also did an audio interview with him back in 2012. Pretty sure a lot has changed. Cheers Sean and thanks. ~jb, Editor @ BuildingMoxie.com