The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced last week its final rule to improve protections for workers exposed to respirable silica dust.
OSHA says the rule will help prevent lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease in workers by limiting their exposure to crystalline silica, which can cause all of the above diseases and disorders when inhaled. The final rule is written as two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime.
Construction companies have until June 23, 2017 to comply with most of the new requirements, such as:
- Reducing the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.
- Mandating employers to use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) and provide respiratory protection when controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level.
- Limiting access to high exposure areas .
Training workers to recognize exposures.
- Provide medical exams to highly exposed workers.
- OSHA says the new regulations, which replace ones established in 1971, provide greater certainty and ease of compliance to construction employers — including many small employers — by including a table of specified controls they can follow to be in compliance without having to monitor exposures.
As we’ve mentioned before, the new rules are the culmination of 45 years of debate and consideration of a new silica rule. Regulators have sought to strengthen the 1971 since its inception as silica, in its natural sand state, is pretty much everywhere on construction sites.