For the last 80 years, we have known that respirable crystalline silica is a deadly hazard. Yet it continues to prevail in many construction, manufacturing, and mining operations. That’s because crystalline silica is part of sand, stone, brick, block, and concrete materials.
OSHA is determined to protect workers from contracting the deadly breathing illness known as silicosis—including other silica-related respiratory, pulmonary, and kidney diseases. As part of this mission, the US Department of Labor and OSHA have announced a final rule regarding silica dust. Here are five things that you should know about this final rule:
Improved Protection for Over Two Million Workers
According to OSHA, over two million construction workers and 300,000 workers in the maritime and general industry are exposed to respiratory crystalline silica at work. Why do we need to update the rule? The 40-year-old permissible exposure limits are no longer enough to protect the workers’ health. Times have changed, and more recent developments must be taken into consideration.
Reducing Respirable Silica Dust Exposure
For starters, the final rule aims to enhance worker protection by cutting down the allowable limit for crystalline silica exposure. This means that for an eight-hour shift, a worker can only be exposed to up to 50 micrograms of crystalline silica per cubic meter of air.
Handling High Exposure Areas
The updated rule requires employers to implement appropriate means and practices in order to limit worker exposure. Occupational training and medical exams must also be provided to workers who are highly exposed to silica dust. Furthermore, proper respiratory protection must be supplied when engineering controls fail to limit the exposure within the permissible level.
Industries Covered by the Final Rule
The final rule applies to construction and maritime/general industry workers and employers. Affected industries include, but are not limited to, glass manufacturing, pottery and concrete products, paintings and coatings, oil and gas operations, and railroad transportation.
To avoid complications, here are the deadlines to remember:
- June 23, 2017: Deadline for employers and workers who must meet most requirements of the construction standard
- June 23, 2018: Deadline for workers and employers who are covered by the maritime/general industry standard
Getting Help with Training
Keeping track of these regulatory developments can be overwhelming. But with continuous workforce training, you can be once step closer to OSHA compliance. Contact OSHAcampus.com to learn more about our training programs!