OSHA's New Silica Regulations: Is Your Organization Ready?

OSHA Sillica

On June 23, 2016, OSHA issued two new standards designed to protect workers from inhaling harmful crystalline silica. The deadline for compliance with the standards is September 23, 2017. Is your organization ready?

What is Crystalline Silica?

Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals. All three forms may become respirable size particles when workers chip, cut, drill, or grind objects that contain crystalline silica.

Why is it Dangerous?

Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. Additionally, breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal. The respirable silica dust enters the lungs and causes the formation of scar tissue, thus reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. There is no cure for silicosis.

What Does the Standard Require?

Under the new guidelines, employers must limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica. All construction employers covered by the standard are required to:

  • 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 workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

How Can Employers Limit Workers’ Exposure to Silica?

OSHA outlines many alternatives to limit silica exposure and mitigate risk to employees. For example, workers using handheld saws should use saws equipped with integrated water delivery system that continuously feeds water to the blade.

For the full list of practice and control methods, click here.

How Graybar Can Help

Keep in mind that the deadline for compliance is coming up fast. Graybar offers many products that will help your organization become crystalline silica compliant. Check out these products here.

For more information on the new regulation, click here.

Sources:
https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/crystalline-factsheet.pdf
https://www.osha.gov/silica/SilicaConstructionRegText.pdf