In 2016 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a standard to protect construction workers from silica exposure in the form of respirable silica dust. The standard was initially to be enforced on June 23, 2017 but recently OSHA delayed enforcement until September 23, 2017.
Quartz is the most common form of silica and it can be found in sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick and block. Silica dust is hazardous when the respirable fraction is inhaled and penetrates the lungs possibly causing lung diseases, (silicosis and lung cancer), as well as kidney disease.
To limit the silica exposure set by the OSHA standard, construction employers have two options:
- Fully and properly implement engineering controls, work practices and respiratory protection for tasks specified in Table 1 of the standard (Section 1926.1153(c)(1)).
- When construction employers can not comply with the requirement in option 1 or for tasks not listed in Table 1, they must measure their workers’ silica dust exposure and take the necessary corrective actions to maintain the exposure below the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3 and in any case limit the exposure to the lowest feasible level.
Regardless of which option employers choose to limit the workers’ dust silica exposure on construction sites, the following are the requirements that each employer has to comply with in order to conform to the silica standard:
- Written silica exposure plan. The plan must contain a description of the tasks that involve silica exposure as well as all engineering controls, work practices, housekeeping and respiratory protection used to limit the exposure. A competent person, designated by the employer, must implement the plan through regular inspections. In addition, when respirators have to be used under the silica standard, the employer must institute a Respiratory Protection Program.
- Medical surveillance. The employer must offer initial medical examination to every employee required to use a respirator, appropriate for respirable silica, for more than 30 days in a year, and then perform periodic examination at least every 3 years.
- Employers must inform and train all employees exposed to silica dust above the action level, 25 µg/m3.
- Recordkeeping. The following records must show compliance with the provisions of the silica standard:
- Silica exposure measurements (if any)
- All objective data relied upon to comply with the silica exposure standard
Walden Environmental Engineering provides a variety of services related to OSHA compliance. Walden can assist you in determining the applicability of the silica exposure standard for your construction sites, and achieving compliance with all the requirement that the standard entails.
Call us at (516) 624-7200 for a free consultation to discuss any issue about the OSHA silica standard 1926.1153 for your construction sites or about any of the other Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) engineering services we provide.