June 6, 2018
The new OSHA silica standard aims “to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rule is comprised of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime” according to the OSHA website.
Crystalline silica exposure is responsible for about 600 worker deaths, and 900 new reported cases of Silicosis each year, OSHA reports. The goal of the new standard is to protect workers who are most at risk for crystalline silica exposure in an effort to reduce the statistics. Any worker who cuts or grinds stones is at risk of being exposed to silica inhalation if they’re not properly protected.
Here are the key aspects of the OSHA Silica Standard, via OSHA.gov:
- Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
- Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
- Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
- Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.
The General Industry and Maritime standard enforcement date will take place on June 23, 2018.
Crystalline Silica is a natural element, composed of soil, sand, granite, and other natural minerals. Because of its genetic makeup, Crystalline Silica dust particles, chips, etc. are much more dangerous when inhaled than that of other minerals (although, respiratory protection should used in any case where exposure to dust, dirt, fumes, etc. could be inhaled). Extra precaution needs to be taken when working with or around crystalline silica because of its relation to pulmonary and respiratory diseases (similarly to Asbestos).