A major change is on the horizon that promises to make jobsites safer for millions of workers across the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a final rule in regards to silica dust exposure. The new policy reduces the acceptable amount of silica dust exposure present in a workplace from 250 to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air for an eight-hour period.
OSHA has issued this rule in an effort to reduce incidences of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and silicosis among U.S. workers. Silica is a crystalline mineral that has been linked to these diseases after prolonged exposure. Workers in the construction industry are particularly susceptible to silica-induced illnesses because they grind and cut materials that contain silica, including concrete. Other industries that are impacted by silica, include hydraulic fracturing and members of the concrete industry.
Along with a reduction in the permissible exposure limit for silica dust, the new ruling requires the following of companies:
- Use of engineering controls such as water and ventilation to reduce exposure to silica dust
- Provide respirators when the exposure to silica dust cannot be reduced adequately
- Create a written silica dust exposure control plan
- Reduce worker exposure to areas with a high concentration of silica dust
- Provide training for workers
- Provide medical exams and monitoring for workers with prolonged exposure to silica dust
What Can Companies Do to Protect Their Workers
There are a few best practices that are being used to curb exposure to silica dust. For more information about safety and compliance with OSHA policies, contact the OSHA attorneys at Cotney Construction Law.
- Using water to bind dust while workers saw into materials containing silica.
- Using a vacuum with specific filter settings (reverse pulse) to capture dust before it gets into the air
Additionally, a table with specific guidance for reducing silica dust can be found OSHA’s announcement concerning this matter.
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.