OSHA has announced its final rule concerning worker protection from respirable silica dust.
According to the OSHA website:
OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The Final Rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.
About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Responsible employers have been protecting workers from harmful exposure to respirable crystalline silica for years, using widely-available equipment that controls dust with water or a vacuum system.
- 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; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train 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.
Both standards contained in the final rule take effect on June 23, 2016, after which industries have one to five years to comply with most requirements, based on the following schedule:
- Construction - June 23, 2017, one year after the effective date.
- General Industry and Maritime - June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.
- Hydraulic Fracturing - June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021.
Need to train your employees on silica safety awareness? Summit offers both an online and in-class course to provide important information on silica hazards and best practices to use to help avoid dangerous exposure to crystalline silica. These programs discuss:
- What is crystalline silica
- Common exposures to crystalline silica
- The hazards of crystalline silica
- What to expect in your workplace
- Best safety practices
Summit offers Silica Safety Awareness through steaming, interactive online, and DVD training options.