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OSHA’s Final Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica

OSHA’s Final Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica

OSHA’s Final Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica

OSHA issued a final rule to limit 2.3 million workers from breathing silica dust and protect them from serious health issues like lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease caused by such exposure. This will be enforced for construction industry starting September 23, 2017. General Industry and Maritime have until June 23, 2018 to follow all provisions. Some of the key requirements include lower permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica as well as requirement to use engineering controls and provide medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers.

The final rule is written as two standards, one for construction (29 CFR 1926.1153) and one for general industry and maritime (29 CFR 1910.1053).

Why is Respirable Crystalline Silica Dangerous?

Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite and other minerals. Silica exists in several forms: cristobalite, tridymite and quartz, its most common form. When crystalline silica is transformed into respirable (inhalable) size of particles, through activities such as chipping, cutting, drilling and grinding, it’s become respirable crystalline silica.

Diseases caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica include lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease. About 2.3 million U.S workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush or grind silica-containing materials like concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in General Industry operations like brick manufacturing, foundries and hydraulic fracturing (known as fracking). Once in full effect, the new OSHA rule’s expected to save approximately 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis, while providing net benefits of $7.7 billion each year, according to OSHA.

Provisions by New OSHA Rule

The new rule will “reduce permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.” In addition, employers are required to:

  • Perform appropriate housekeeping activities, such as no dry sweeping or dry brushing, no using compressed air to clean clothing or surfaces unless used in conjunction with a ventilation system that effectively captures dust cloud or no alternative method is feasible

  • Use engineering controls or provide respirators when engineering controls cannot limit exposure sufficiently

  • Limit workers’ access to high exposure areas

  • Maintain and implement a written exposure control plan, that specifies minimum procedures an employer must follow to protect employees and comply with respirable crystalline silica standard, and must be reviewed, evaluated and updated annually

  • Periodically offer medical exams to highly exposed workers (at no cost)

  • Train workers on silica risks and how to protect themselves

  • Perform other methods of control, such as dust suppression, vacuum dust collection, respiratory protection, ventilated booths, operator isolation, fans, restrictions of work on windy days, etc.

Get Ready For The Changes!

These two ClickSafety courses will help you become ready for OSHA's silica final rule:

Respirable Crystalline Silica Awareness in Construction

This course will identify health hazards associated with exposure to silica and respirable crystalline silica dust, some of the common construction tasks that could result in exposure to respirable crystalline, and typical control measures employers may implement to protect workers from exposure to silica and respirable crystalline silica.

Respirable Crystalline Silica in Construction for the Exposed Worker

This course is designed to inform the student of the essential elements of OSHA’s new Respirable Crystalline Silica standard found in 29 CFR 1926.1153. This course is more comprehensive than the Awareness Level course and is largely developed from OSHA’s Respirable Crystalline Silica in construction standard.

March 1, 2017