New Law in New Jersey Bans Dry Cutting of Masonry

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CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

Describes New Jersey’s new law banning dry cutting of masonry, including the history behind the law, reason for it and a link to the law.
April 2005

Research by CPWR and others has shown that dry cutting or dry grinding of masonry or concrete results in high exposures to silica dust among workers, with the highest measured personal exposure more than 200 times the NIOSH recommended exposure limit (REL) for silica. Use of tools that have local-exhaust ventilation and water-fed cutting systems can dramatically reduce exposures and the risk of silicosis – a sometimes deadly lung disease. (See Using a Ventilated Grinder, page 1.)

Early in 2004, the Bricklayers Union and other labor organizations in New Jersey worked with legislators to reduce worker exposures to silica. The proposal was to prohibit dry cutting of masonry and require use of water or engineering and work-practice controls for the dust, unless a contractor can show that such controls are not feasible. Acting Governor Richard J. Codey signed the bill and it became law December 9, 2004. If no other protections are possible, the employer is to provide full-face respirators as part of a complete, OSHA-approved program.

OSHA has a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for silica and began a special emphasis program in 1996 focusing on silica hazards. The agency held stakeholder meetings in 1999 and, as of March 2005, was still working to develop a comprehensive standard.

New Jersey’s move is believed to be the first such state law. A copy of the law can be downloaded from