A little more than two decades ago, The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) evaluated more than 100 areas of potential workplace hazards and found that workers exposure to crystalline silica needed to be readdressed. Since then, OSHA has continued its campaign to limit workers exposure to silica dust. In March of 2016, OSHA’s final rule was released outlining key provisions and compliance guidelines for protecting workers from crystalline silica exposure.
What Is Crystalline Silica
Crystalline silica is a compound found in natural substances like soil, sand, granite, quartz. Silica becomes a safety hazard when it is broken down into small particles that can be inhaled by workers performing activities like blasting, cutting, or drilling.
Dangers Of Silica
Workers can be exposed to silica during routine construction activities like milling, rock crushing, tuckpointing, and using rotary hammers and drills. Prolonged exposure to silica can cause death or put workers at risk for debilitating respiratory problems, silicosis, and kidney disease. An awareness of the signs and symptoms of these potential health issues and providing screenings and treatments is key to reducing silica damage to workers.
How OSHA Addresses Silica Exposure
OSHA’s new ruling consists of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime which all take effect June 23, 2016. The new ruling will help prevent silicosis cases and save the lives of many construction workers. You can learn more about OSHA’s rule making timeline so you can understand the history leading to the final decision. The provisions to the ruling are:
- The Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for worker exposure to silica cannot exceed 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air in an 8-hour period cannot
- Employers can choose different ways to reduce worker exposure to silica
- Workers who have already experienced high exposure to silica can receive medical exams to monitor lung health
We’ll discuss the importance of protecting workers from silica exposure in Part 2 of the article series.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.