Safety Measures for Crystalline Silica Updated

dustRespirable crystalline silica presents an every-day safety hazard for the construction industry. Specifically, lung cancer, pulmonary and kidney disease. About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries.

To this end, OSHA has issued a final rule to help employers keep their workplaces safe. The rule is comprised of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime.

Responsible employers have been protecting workers from harmful exposure to respirable crystalline silica for years, using widely-available equipment that controls dust with water or a vacuum system. However, new standards have been in the works since June 2016, and continued to be monitored.

OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The Final Rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually. Details of the new rule are listed below:

Key Provisions

  • 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.
  • Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
  • Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.

As always, Personal Protective Equipment is the first step in prevention, particularly in the case of silica dust.

For more information about compliance, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.

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