The compliance date for the new OSHA Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry is quickly approaching. This new standard requires employers to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica and take other steps to protect workers by June 23, 2018.
Crystalline silica is a common component of sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar. Exposures to crystalline silica dust occur in common workplace operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing of concrete, brick, block, rock, and stone products. It is also common at operations using sand products, including glass manufacturing, foundries, and sand blasting. Some of the applicable requirements include:
Assess employee exposures to silica if it may be at or above an action level of 25 µg/m3 averaged over an 8-hour day;
Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour day;
Limit workers' access to areas where they could be exposed above the PEL;
Use dust controls to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL;
Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL;
Use housekeeping methods that do not create airborne dust;
Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers;
Offer medical exams - including chest X-rays and lung function tests - every three years for workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year;
Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure; and
Keep records of exposure measurements, objective data, and medical exams.
General industry must comply with all requirements of the standard by June 23, 2018, with the following exception:
Medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2020. (Medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2018.)
Dust Control Methods Employers can protect workers from silica exposures by using dust controls such as:
Wet methods that apply water at the point where silica dust is made;
Local exhaust ventilation that removes silica dust at or near the point where it is made; and
Enclosures that isolate the work process or the worker.
CFR has a long track record of guiding industry through regulatory mazes, including OSHA exposure standards. Contact CFR to find out how we can help you with your compliance problems.