Silica is a naturally occurring and dangerous mineral. Breathing it can cause serious damage to the lungs. OSHA has a new standard for construction, general industry and maritime regarding this danger.
Silica is a naturally occurring mineral that is commonly found in construction materials such as mortar and stone. The particles are 100 times smaller than ordinary sand, and can pose significant health risks with repeated respiratory exposure. Breathing crystalline silica dust is known to cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease, which can be disabling or even fatal. The disease affects the immune system and increases the risk of lung infections, such as tuberculosis. Repeated exposure to respirable crystalline silica can also increase the risk of lung cancer, kidney disease, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. And many silica-related illnesses are irreversible.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the Department of Labor, has issued new respirable crystalline silica standards for construction, and for general industry and maritime as well. Through proper preparation, organizations can ensure they are compliant with the new standards and provisions.
OSHA's new standard for construction requires employers to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica. Not only do the new rules require contractors to develop a written silica exposure control plan and appoint a competent person to implement it, housekeeping practices must be adjusted to maximize control of silica dust. Employers must also offer medical exams every three years to exposed employees who must wear a respirator for 30 days annually, including lung-function tests and chest X-rays. In addition, workers will have to be trained on how to limit exposure to silica, and the organization must keep records of workers’ silica exposure and related medical treatment. With the exception of requirements for laboratory evaluation of exposure samples which begin on June 23, 2018, these rules went into effect for construction employers on September 23, 2017.
For general industry and maritime, the new regulations also require employers to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica. In addition to all the provisions outlined for construction above, employers must also assess employee exposures to silica if at or above an action level of 25 µg/m3 (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day. The company must protect workers from exposure levels above the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour day. Worker access to areas of exposure above the PEL must be limited, and dust controls implemented. Employers will also have to provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL, and develop practices that do not create airborne dust, if feasible. Enforcement begins June 23, 2018.
Creating a silica compliant environment might prove challenging, but it is necessary to ensure worker safety. Detection and remediation are the best ways to maximize worker safety and ensure compliance with the new regulations, and Polygon has cost-effective solutions that can help sites become OSHA compliant. Operating on batteries and solar power for continuous monitoring, the ultra-advanced ExactAire® remote monitoring system proficiently evaluates the air quality of an environment and generates easy-to-read reports. Polygon also offers leading-edge filtration and air movement solutions to mitigate a site’s respirable crystalline silica levels.
To learn more about our solutions for meeting the new OSHA standards, contact us at https://www.polygongroup.com/en-US/contact-us/ today!