OSHA’s Final Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica

The risks of respirable crystalline silica have been known for more than 80 years, but until recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) permissible exposure limits for silica hadn’t been updated in over four decades. Recently released, OSHA’s final rule on crystalline silica exposure is designed to limit exposure to the particles, in an effort to reduce instances of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, silicosis, and kidney disease.

Divided into two parts, the new rule has one set of standards for the construction industry and another for general industry and maritime. When fully implemented, OSHA predicts the new rule will save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis annually. Standards become effective on June 23, 2016 and industries have one-to-five years to conform to most of the requirements.

4 Highlights of OSHA’s Final Rule on Respirable Crystalline Silica

• The Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica has been lowered to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged across an eight-hour workday.

• Employers are now required to use engineering controls to reduce exposure to the PEL, provide respirators when exposure cannot be properly controlled, limit access to areas of high exposure, create a written exposure control plan, and implement training programs on silica risks and ways to limit exposure.

• Highly exposed workers must be offered medical exams and given information about the condition of their lungs.

• The plan offers plenty of flexibility to help businesses of all sizes adopt the new standards designed to help keep workers safe from the harmful effects of silica exposure.

About Respirable Crystalline Silica

A serious threat to almost 2 million workers in the U.S., crystalline silica is a sometimes fatal conglomeration of sand, soil, granite, and a host of other minerals. The most common form is quartz, but other variations include cristobalite and tridymite — with all three having the potential to become respirable when chipped, grinded, cut, or drilled.

So dangerous it has been categorized as a human lung carcinogen, crystalline silica can cause serious and deadly diseases — including silicosis — and can also promote the onset of lung infections, such as tuberculosis. Silicosis is classified on three different levels — chronic/classic, accelerated, and acute. The most common form — chronic/classic — is a result of 15 to 20 years of moderate-to-low exposure to respirable crystalline silica and symptoms may not be evident.

Keep Your Workers Safe

Whether your workplace is a traditional office setting, a construction site or any other type of environment, using a dust meter is an effective way to monitor respirable crystalline silica levels. Eco-Rental Solutions rents a wide-variety of dust monitoring meters and monitors for air quality testing. Contact us today for more information or to request a quote!