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OSHA implements new standard for silica dust exposure

What is OSHA's new silica rule? What should I do to prepare? When do I have to be in compliance by?

  • Apr 25, 2017

What is OSHA’s new silica rule?

The new rule reduces the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for crystalline silica to 50 ug/m³, and sets the Action Level (AL) at 25 ug/m³ 8-hour Time Weighted Average (TWA). Overexposure to respirable silica dust causes permanent lung disease (silicosis), lung cancer and activates TB infection.  OSHA estimates that the new rule will reduce the incidence of silicosis and other silica-related diseases among workers. Silica exposure occurs with chipping, sanding, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, block, rock and stone products, and exposure to sand products from glass manufacturing and sand blasting.

What should I do to prepare?

Visit www.silica-safe.org; click on “Know the Hazard” and again on “Who's at risk?” You will find out the tasks and construction materials that contribute to silica exposure.

Construction industry:

  1. Use a control method for the specific task as laid out in table 1 of the construction standard (see the attached table 1 document). OR
  2. Measure workers exposures to silica and determine the best control methods.

General industry and maritime:

  1. Measure employees’ exposure to silica and determine if their exposure levels are below or above the PEL.
  2. Use dust control methods to reduce exposure if assessment results are above the PEL.
  3. Provide respirator if dust control methods are not adequate to reduce exposure below the PEL.

When do I have to be in compliance by?

Construction industry - September 23, 2017.

General industry and maritime - June 23, 2018.

What else do I have to do?

Regardless of the chosen option or industry, all employers covered by the new rule must:

  1. Establish a written exposure control plan
  2. Designate a competent person to implement the written plan
  3. Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica to where feasible alternatives exist
  4. Offer medical examination to workers who are required to wear a respirator (construction industry), or when exposure is above the action level (general and maritime industry) for 30 or more days per year
  5. Train workers on work processes and how to limit exposures to silica
  6. Keep record of silica exposures assessment and medical examination results

How can I get further help?

Sanford Health OccMed can provide exposure measurements, medical examinations and general education on the new silica rule. Call our Industrial Hygienist at (701) 234-4926 for further information.

Sanford OccMed’s comprehensive program is tailored to your business’ needs and is backed by Sanford’s team of medical specialists.

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