We describe an empirical model for exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) to create a quantitative job-exposure matrix (JEM) for community-based studies. Personal measurements of exposure to RCS from Europe and Canada were obtained for exposure modelling. A mixed-effects model was elaborated, with region/country and job titles as random effect terms. The fixed effect terms included year of measurement, measurement strategy (representative or worst-case), sampling duration (minutes) and a priori exposure intensity rating for each job from an independently developed JEM (none, low, high). 23,640 personal RCS exposure measurements, covering a time period from 1976 to 2009, were available for modelling. The model indicated an overall downward time trend in RCS exposure levels of -6% per year. Exposure levels were higher in the UK and Canada, and lower in Northern Europe and Germany. Worst-case sampling was associated with higher reported exposure levels and an increase in sampling duration was associated with lower reported exposure levels. Highest predicted RCS exposure levels in the reference year (1998) were for chimney bricklayers (geometric mean 0.11 mg m(-3)), monument carvers and other stone cutters and carvers (0.10 mg m(-3)). The resulting model enables us to predict time-, job-, and region/country-specific exposure levels of RCS. These predictions will be used in the SYNERGY study, an ongoing pooled multinational community-based case-control study on lung cancer.