What is Crystalline Silica?

Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in materials such as sand, stone, and concrete. Silica is also used to make products such as pottery, glass, artificial stone and bricks.

Respirable Crystalline Silica are very small particles that can be inhaled. These particles are at least 100 times smaller than the sand you might find on a beach. Workers can inhale these tiny respirable particles when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling. Workers are also at risk in certain industrial operations such as foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Workers who inhale these very small particles potentially causing several debilitating and even deadly diseases:

  • Silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability and death;
  • Lung cancer;
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and
  • Kidney disease.

 Why are there new standards?

About 2.3 million people in the U.S. are exposed to silica at work. This is a serious safety and health issue that we must take seriously to protect workers.

When are these standards put into effect by OSHA?

For general industry, employers must comply with the requirements of the standard, with a few exceptions, by June 23, 2018.

What does the Standard Require?

The standard for general industry and maritime (29 CFR 1910.1053) requires employers to:

  • Determine the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it is, or may reasonably be expected to be, at or above the action level of 25 μg/m3 (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day;
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 μg/m3 , averaged over an 8-hour day; • Limit access to areas where workers could be exposed above the PEL;
  • Use dust controls and safer work methods to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL;
  • Provide respirators to workers when dust controls and safer work methods cannot limit exposures to the PEL;
  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers; • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica, such as use of compressed air without a ventilation system to capture the dust and dry sweeping, where effective, safe alternatives are available;
  • Offer medical exams—including chest X-rays and lung function tests—every three years to workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year;
  • Train workers on the health effects of silica exposure, workplace tasks that can expose them to silica, and ways to limit exposure; and
  • Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

For more information on the silica standard or assistance with becoming compliant, contact us today.

*Information provided within this blog was obtained from OSHA Respirable Crystalline Silica Fact Sheet and OHSA.gov

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