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Everything You Need to Know About OSHA’s Silica Standard

Folks in the industry have long awaited Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s final decision on the permissible exposure level (PEL) for crystalline silica for general industry and construction. The rule is separated into two separate segments: one for the General Industry (affecting employees in stone fabrication shops) and one for Construction (affecting employees working at job sites). Here is everything you need to know about OSHA’s Silica Standard.

The Risk

The change comes after OSHA’s realization that the former silica rules did not provide protection, and workers are still at risk. Diseases related to airborne crystalline silica affect thousands of workers every year. Respirable crystalline silica dust can cause problems such as lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney disease. OSHA predicts that the rule will save more than 600 lives and prevent over 900 new cases of silicosis each year.

The New Rule

Consequently, the new rule cuts the respirable silica PEL from 100 µg/m3for an 8-hour time-weighted average of 50 µg/m3. In addition to instituting dust controls when exposures exceed the PEL, there are several actions employers must follow when exposures exceed the AL:

  • Exposure control plan: Require a written plan and implement by a competent person.
  • Medical exams: Exams must be available (at no cost to employees) to anyone who wears a respirator for 30 or more days a year due to silica exposure.
  • Training: Employers must include silica exposure in their Hazard Communication program. It’s imperative to relay information on its effects and procedures to prevent overexposure.
  • Cleaning: Require a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum and/or the use of wet methods. Compressed air, dry sweeping and dry brushing are not allowed.
  • Record keeping: It is necessary to keep records of air monitoring data, objective data, and medical/exposure surveillance data.

EAI is Compliant

The EAI workforce has been diligent in making these changes, and is 100% compliant with the new standard. The safety and well-being of our employees and those around our projects is a priority for us.