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What's New in OSHA: Crystalline Silica Protection

Updated: Jul 23, 2018

We here at RCI believe that keeping up-to-date with OSHA's ever-changing regulations and amendments is crucial in maintaining an ideal safety culture. While we offer valuable services to help you do so, it's also important to keep an eye on notifications.

To that end, this will be the first in a new series called "What's New in OSHA". The purpose here is to help inform employers and employees about upcoming OSHA events, rulings, and hot topics. Feel free to comment below with feedback on this post, and let us know how we can make this series even better!

Today's topic focuses on the September 23rd enacting of the new Construction standard for respirable crystalline silica.

Crystalline Silica Protection Overview

OSHA's final ruling concerns the limitation of worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica, which includes several diseases. These include lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease.

Just how important is this? Nearly 600 annual lives saved, while nearly 900 new cases prevented. Roughly 2.3 million workers are exposed to this silica each year, with 2 million of them coming through construction (nearly 87%!).

Fiscally, there are some incredible benefits as well. Approximately $7.7 billion in annual net benefits stems from this ruling.

Here are some of the key provisions for this ruling:

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.

  • Requires employers to use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL.

    • They must also provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure.

    • Employers must also limit worker access to high exposure areas;

    • Develop a written exposure control plan, while offering medical exams to highly exposed workers, and training workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.

  • Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers, and gives them information about their lung health.

  • Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.

Employers in Construction must comply with the FULL requirements by September 23rd. Further down the schedule, we have General Industry and Maritime (June 23, 2018), and Hydraulic Fracturing (June 23, 2018). Engineering Controls has a compliance "due date" of June 23, 2021, which serves as the final provision within the standard.

Is your company up-to-date? Don't worry! Contact RCI today to schedule some consultation!

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