OSHA’s New Silica Rule

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Here’s what you need to know.

Background: Respirable crystalline silica is produced by the drilling, cutting, and grinding of materials that contain silica, such as concrete, stone, and brick. Health effects of silica dust include silicosis, lung cancer, kidney disease, and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

The New Rule: The rule cuts the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for silica dust to 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter (µg/m3) of air, as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA).  The old silica PEL was 250 µg/m3.  Note that this is quite a drastic reduction. Read the rule here.

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*Construction: employers must be in full compliance by June 23, 2017. General industry and maritime: employers must be in full compliance by June 23, 2018.

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What does this mean for your business?

Employers may choose to comply with the specific exposure control methods in Table 1, on page 2,  of the Construction Standard, which enumerates eighteen specific construction tasks and mandates certain control methods according to factors such as duration and location of exposure.
The second compliance measure available to employers is to measure workers’ exposure and independently decide which control methods work best to limit exposures.
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Regardless of which exposure control methods are used, all construction employers are required to:
  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers.
  • Provide respirators to protect workers when engineering controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL.  This requires compliance with 29 CFR 1910.134 which necessitates a written respirator program.
  • Hazard communication: The employer shall include respirable crystalline silica in the program established to comply with the hazard communication standard (HCS) (29 CFR 1910.1200).
  • Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure.
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica where feasible alternatives are available.
  • Limit workers’ access to areas where they could be exposed above the PEL.
  • Medical surveillance: the employer shall make medical surveillance available for each employee who will be required to use a respirator for 30 or more days per year.

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How AirQuest can help.

AirQuest understands the importance of your worker’s health and safety as well as the need to be in compliance with the updated rule. We have been a trusted source for worker exposures for the Navy and are ready to help you!
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Our services that we can provide you to ensure compliance include of the following:
  • Assist employers with  compliance
  • Air sample for respirable crystalline silica
  • Prepare written exposure control plan
  • Prepare and/or update written hazard communication program
  • Prepare written respirator program
  • Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure
  • Provide consultation services pertaining to implementation of engineering controls and work practices to minimize exposure
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