OSHA’s New Crystalline Silica Rules to be enforced starting September 23, 2017

Two million construction workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in over 600,000 workplaces. Over 840,000 of these workers are exposed to silica levels that exceed the new permissible exposure limit (PEL) See OSHA Fact Sheet: www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3681.pdf.

Exposure during common, everyday construction tasks (drilling, boring and cutting of concrete and masonry products) can cause silicosis, lung cancer, other respiratory diseases and kidney disease. The hazards of working around silica are dangerous, but OSHA’s new silica rules can and will save lives. I wanted to highlight the new rule to keep us all safe and in compliance.

What changed? In 2013 OSHA began the process of reviewing its prior silica exposure regulations. The previous PELs were taken from studies in the early 60’s that did not reflect that low-level exposures can cause serious health effects.

All construction employers will be required to have the following in place beginning September 23, 2017,
(previously June 23, 2017):

  • A written exposure control plan: Needs to identify tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers, including procedures to restrict access to work where high exposures may occur
  • A chosen individual to communicate and implement the plan
  • Restrict housekeeping practices to limit exposure
  • Offer medical exams to workers who are required to wear respirators
  • Dust masks of assigned protection factor – Assigned Protection Factor (APF) 10 or more
  • Train workers to limit exposure
  • Keep records--Of all silica exposures and medical exams

The new OSHA silica rule is expected to save an estimated 600 lives each year, once it is in full effect and will prevent over 900 cases of silicosis each year.

Additional Information: MEA and MNOSHA are partners in a training alliance—please reference the May article from Dave Ferkul, Workplace Safety Consultation Supervisor, on this topic. You can also find information at www.osha.gov/silica. MEA’s AWAIR program will be updated by September 1—the AWAIR manual is a free benefit for all MEA members and can be downloaded online.