OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Rule is intended to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica in order to allow employers to tailor solutions to their specific workplaces.
About 295,000 workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in over 75,000 general industry and maritime workplaces. Exposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause kidney disease, silicosis, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
OSHA estimates that over 100,000 workers in general industry and maritime workplaces are exposed to silica levels that exceed the new permissible exposure limit (PEL).
What Does OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Rule Require?
OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Rule for general industry and maritime requires employers to do the following:
- Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it may be at or above an action level of 25 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air (μg/m3), averaged over an eight-hour day.
- Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit of 50 μg/m3, averaged over an eight-hour day.
- Limit workers’ access to areas where they could be exposed to silica levels above the PEL.
- Use dust controls to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL.
- Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL.
- Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica where feasible alternatives are available.
- Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers.
- Offer medical exams—including chest X-rays and lung function tests—every three years for workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year.
- Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and on ways to limit exposure.
- Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.
Example: Dust Control Methods
In most cases, dust controls such as wet methods and ventilation can be used to limit workers’ exposure to silica. These technologies are widely available and affordable and are already commonly used by many employers.
For example, a worker cutting granite can use a saw that applies water to the blade. The water will reduce the amount of silica-containing dust that gets into the air.
When Are Employers Required to Comply?
General industry and maritime employers must comply with all requirements of the standard by June 23, 2018. However, the following exceptions apply:
- Medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2020. Medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year starting June 23, 2018.
- Hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry must implement engineering controls to limit exposures to the new PEL by June 23, 2021.
- Source: OSHA
- For additional information on OSHA’s silica rule, go to www.osha.gov/silica.
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