OSHA Announces Silica Final Rule!

OSHA Announces Silica Final Rule!

 

J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc. – OSHA announced a final rule on March 24 to improve protections for workers exposed to respirable silica dust. According to the agency, the silica rule will curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease in workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

 

OSHA is issuing two standards to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica – one for construction, and the other for general industry and maritime – in order to allow employers to tailor solutions to the specific conditions in their workplaces.

 

OSHA says the final rule will:

  • Reduce the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.
  • Require employers to use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) and work practices to limit worker exposure; provide respiratory protection when controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level; limit access to high exposure areas; train workers; and provide medical exams to highly exposed workers.
  • Provide greater certainty and ease of compliance to construction employers – including many small employers – by including a table of specified controls they can follow to be in compliance, without having to monitor exposures.
  • Stagger compliance dates to ensure employers have sufficient time to meet the requirements, e.g., extra time for the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) industry to install new engineering controls and for all general industry employers to offer medical surveillance to employees exposed between the PEL and 50 micrograms per cubic meter and the action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

Construction Industry

 

Employers covered by the construction standard have until June 23, 2017 to comply with most requirements.

 

Construction employers can either use a control method, or they can measure workers’ exposure to silica and independently decide which dust controls work best to limit exposures to the PEL in their workplaces.

  • Regardless of which exposure control method is used, all construction employers covered by the standard are required to:
  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers, including procedures to restrict access to work areas where high exposures may occur.
  • Designate a competent person to implement the written exposure control plan.
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica where feasible alternatives are available.
  • Offer medical exams – including chest X-rays and lung function tests – every three years for workers who are required by the standard to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year.
  • Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure.
  • Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

General industry

 

Employers covered by the general industry and maritime standard have until June 23, 2018 to comply with most requirements; additional time is provided to offer medical exams to some workers and for hydraulic fracturing employers to install dust controls to meet the new exposure limit.

 

The standard requires general industry and maritime employers to:

  • Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it may be at or above an action level of 25 μg/m3 (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day.
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit 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.
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica where feasible alternatives are available.
  • 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.

Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams

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