One of the hazardous substances in the construction industry is crystalline silica. While crystalline silica was considered safe in the workplace decades ago—leading to 40 years of permissible exposure limits of the substance—these PELs are outdated, according to HAZWOPER safety standards of today. Training to avoid hazardous chemicals is crucial to ensure that workers are not exposed to this caustic and life-threatening substance.
Working with Crystalline Silica
Crystalline silica is a natural substance in objects including block, rock, stone, brick, and concrete. When these objects are used in construction—via sawing, dozing or dynamiting—the resulting dust contains high levels of crystalline silica.
- Safety tip for workers: Add water to a saw blade while cutting through such materials to decrease the amount of dust released during the process.
Health Risks Associated with Crystalline Silica Exposure
In the past century, inhalation of crystalline silica particles, which are minute and, as a result, respirable, was not considered to be a problem. However, research via OSHA has determined that this exposure is a direct cause of silicosis, lung cancer, kidney disease, andchronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). To prevent harmful levels of the substance from entering a person’s body, safety controls must be enforced.
The Hazard Communication Standard Updated
OSHA has implemented the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standard. HAZWOPER safety extends to five specific groups that are exposed to hazardous substances at work. These groups include:
- Cleanup operations
- Corrective actions under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976
- Voluntary operations involved in cleanup of sites deemed uncontrolled hazardous waste locales
- Hazardous waste storage, treatment, and disposal facility operations
- Emergency response operations
As part of HAZWOPER safety and GHS Hazard Communication, OSHA has proposed an update to the exposure limits of crystalline silica in the workplace. In this ruling, extensive reviews were conducted regarding the health risks of working in environments where crystalline silica is evident.
Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health,is looking forward to the public’s comment on the proposal:
“Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential. Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. This proposal is expected to prevent thousands of deaths from silicosis – an incurable and progressive disease – as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases, and kidney disease.”
In an estimate, OSHA points out that the proposed ruling will prevent 1,600 new instances of exposure to silicosis and save almost 700 lives from the harmful effects of working around crystalline silica every year.
Staying Up to Date with Silica Safety
To ensure that your workplace is up to date with the latest training to avoid hazardous chemicals, look for reputable safety training providers.OSHAcampus.com can train employees on how to reduce their risks associated with the exposure to crystalline silica. Maintain a safe and productive workplace, while keeping in compliance with the latest rules via OSHA. Let OSHAcampus.com help you to keep up with the changes through continuous training as the rulings evolve!