Chatsworth, CA -- Next month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will begin enforcing a Final Rule for respirable crystalline silica in an effort to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney disease in construction workers. The rule is comprised of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime.
OSHA’s new Crystalline Silica Rule has a reduced permissible exposure limit (PEL) which requires employers to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meters of air averaged over an 8 hour shift. This is a reduction from the current PEL which is 100 micrograms per cubic meters of air averaged over an 8-hour shift. According to the agency, approximately two million workers in the construction industry are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in over 600,000 workplaces. OSHA estimates that more than 840,000 of these workers are exposed to silica levels that exceed the new permissible exposure limit (PEL).
The new rule also requires employers to:
- Use engineering controls to limit worker exposure
- Provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure
- Limit worker access to high exposure areas
- Develop a written exposure control plan
- Offer medical exams for employees anticipated to have high exposure to crystalline silica.
- Provide hazard communication training for employees working with silica which covers health risks and steps to limit exposures
“Inhalation exposure to crystalline silica can occur during countless construction tasks since it is such a common mineral found in everything from concrete and stone to sand and many types of mortar,” said Zahid Iqbal, MPH, CIH and Technical Director at Clark Seif Clark. “OSHA has announced that the enforcement of the new construction industry standard will begin on September 23rd, 2017. At CSC, our industrial hygiene professionals are available to assist construction companies with compliance strategies that include air testing, monitoring, engineering controls, record keeping, personal protective equipment fit testing and employee hazard communication training. These services not only help to protect employees from exposure risks, they are also instrumental for keeping companies in regulatory compliance.”
CSC recently sponsored an educational video about crystalline silica exposure hazards in the construction industry that can be seen at: https://youtu.be/YTwQiEgWLfw