Fiber Cement Questions


Things you should know about new regulations for the construction industry.

New Rules for Fiber Cement

If you work in the construction industry as a remodeler, contractor, builder, the new regulations impact you. If you are an architect, designer, home improvement specialist, you should be aware of the risks of using fiber cement siding.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new rules 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 means new compliance rules for installation of fiber cement siding products.

This site provides information on the new regulations regarding the use of fiber cement siding products and outlines alternative siding options to consider.

What You Need To Know

When do the new rules take effect?

Now. Enforcement of the new rules began on September 23, 2017.

What is crystalline silica?

Crystalline silica is a mineral found in sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, mortar and fiber cement siding. Workers are exposed to crystalline silica dust in operations like cutting, sawing, drilling or crushing components that contain crystalline silica.

How much silica dust is too much?

Just a small amount of very fine respirable silica dust can create a health hazard. The new OSHA regulation requires construction employers to keep worker exposures at or below a Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air.  

The Risks of Fiber Cement

What illnesses can result from inhaling dust containing silica?

Inhaling crystalline silica can lead to serious, sometimes fatal illnesses including silicosis, lung cancer, tuberculosis (in those with silicosis), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Silica exposure has also been linked to other cancers. In 1996, the World Health Organization – International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC) identified crystalline silica as a “known human carcinogen”.  

What is silicosis?

Silicosis is a disabling, irreversible, and sometimes fatal lung disease. The risk of silicosis is high for workers in several industries, including the construction industry. As noted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),

As an employer, what steps are required for compliance?

  • Implement specified exposure control methods.
  • Complete exposure assessments.
Setup respiratory protection programs were required.
  • Get appropriate equipment, controls, and respirators where required.
  • Arrange for medical surveillance.
  • Determine appropriate housekeeping methods.
  • Prepare a written exposure control plan.
  • Set up a training program.
  • Set up a recordkeeping system.

What equipment do I need to comply with the new standard?

Specialty handheld power saws for cutting fiber-cement board (with a blade diameter of 8 inches or less) must be equipped with commercially available dust collection systems and a filter with a 99% or greater efficiency. The saws must be operated and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to minimize dust emissions and provide the air flow rate recommended by the manufacturer or greater.

The saws must only be used outdoors. Full and proper implementation of dust collection systems on handheld power saws for cutting fiber-cement board requires the employer to ensure that the shroud or cowling is intact and installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. The hose connecting the tool to the vacuum is intact and without kinks or tight bends. The filter(s) on the vacuum are cleaned or changed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent clogging and the dust collection bags are emptied to avoid overfilling.

How To Protect Yourself

I install fiber cement, how do I protect myself?

By law, your employer is responsible for providing a safe workplace. This is an OSHA requirement. As an employee it’s your responsibility to use the equipment provided, participate in educational programs, and follow your employer’s safety and health instructions. Take the time to learn the health effects of breathing crystalline silica dust and the tasks that generate this dust on the job. Avoid working in dust whenever possible. Take advantage of health or lung screening programs when offered.

How do I avoid bringing fiber cement dust home on my clothes?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workers avoid bringing silica dust home from work by changing into disposable or washable work clothes at the worksite. Showering (if possible) and changing into clean clothes before leaving the worksite to prevent contamination of other work areas, cars, and homes. Parking your car where it will not be contaminated with silica.

How do I clean dust from surfaces?

To minimize the release of crystalline silica dust in the air, clean up dust from surfaces using wet methods or a HEPA vacuum. Always avoid dry sweeping or dry brushing.

Where can I find out more about silica related rules and regulations?

OSHA is the primary source for information on regulations that cover silica exposures and measures employers are required to take to protect their employees. Review the OSHA silica fact sheet and the OSHA Silica Standard for Construction.

Bust the Dust

What are the alternatives to fiber cement siding?

Good news. Compared to fiber cement, the alternatives below weigh much less, so they’re easier to handle, transport and install. Plus, with new advances in production, they come in an abundance of styles and vibrant colors.

Vinyl Siding:

Kaycan Siding
ABTCO Vinyl Siding

Engineered Wood Siding:

Kaycan Siding