Giving Silica the Attention it Deserves

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a Final Rule in an effort to limit workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica, which has been linked to lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease among exposed employees.

When working with materials containing silica, if you follow the requirements specified by the OSHA Table 1 fully and completely, you will not be required to do air monitoring and will be assumed to be below the permissible exposure limit. Table 1 matches common construction tasks with dust control methods. That way, contractors know exactly what they need to do to limit worker exposures to silica.

Below is a list of steps that OSHA is requiring each company to perform.

  • 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 exposure measurements, objective data, and medical exams.

While the Final Rule provides the letter of law, OSHA also has provided outreach material for construction to give guidance on implementing the new standard. We strive each and every day to provide a safe work environment for our employees and this is just one more way that we can send them home they way they came in.