OSHA Amends Silica Rule for First Time in 45 years

silica exposure

OSHA has updated regulations to the respirable crystalline silica standard. These changes have been anticipated for a long time: it’s being updated for the first time since 1971. This is due to a clearer understanding of the long-term health effects from inadequate protection from silica. Under the new rule, OSHA stresses the importance of implementing engineering controls and measurements within worksites to help improve employee safety and compliance.

Silica exposure affects the lives of not only workers, but their families and loved ones as well. Nearly 2.3 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica in their workplaces. OSHA estimates the updated rule will save over 600 lives and prevent up to 900 new cases of silicosis each year, as soon as its effects are fully understood (OSHA).

A major key provision of the rule is reducing the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour shift.

It is crucial to equip employees with updated safeguards and the knowledge necessary to prevent silica exposure.

Changes to implement under the new standard:

Exposure control plan: Outlines methods of controlling dust within a worksite where exposure is present.
Written respiratory protection program: Organizations must implement a plan if respirators are necessary to protect workers.
Engineering controls: Wet methods, vacuum dust collection, local exhaust ventilation, substitution of less toxic materials.
Administrative controls: Limit access to hazardous areas, provide hazard communication and training on silica for employees, protect employees’ right to know and understand
Post warning signs: If working outside, block off areas directly downwind of airborne silica dust to assure unprotected workers and others are not exposed.
Housekeeping: Maintain equipment by replacing vacuum collection bags and air filters regularly, avoid sweeping and use of compressed air of dry material off surfaces and floors.
Medical Exams: Require all employees to receive a medical exam regardless of the level of exposure.

Effective Dates for Implementation
For the construction industry:
June 23, 2017
For general industry and the maritime industry:
June 23, 2018

*Industries have one to five years to adopt most requirements

Succeed Management Solutions, LLC offers a new Silica Exposure Prevention training course that outlines the potential hazards associated with working with risk of exposure to silica dust. The course includes information about the new OSHA requirements and necessary controls to apply in the workplace to keep your workers safe.