When Dust Is Not Just Dust: New Silica Guidelines You Need to Know
* UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has now delayed enforcement of this new standard to begin on September 23, 2017 as opposed to the original date of June 23, 2017. *
Silica is the second most common mineral in the crust of the earth. Silica can be found in materials like sand, concrete, brick, block, stone and mortar. Overexposure to dust that contains crystalline silica can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs, which reduces the lungs ability to function. The resulting disease is called Silicosis. It is an incurable lung disease that sometimes causes bronchitis and puts victims at increased risk of tuberculosis, and may lead to lung cancer.
All this disease, from breathing in dust that is not just dust.
The hazards of breathing crystalline silica have been known by stone cutters and quarrymen for eons. In the 1700’s Bernardino Ramazzini (considered the father of occupational medicine) wrote about stone cutter “maladies” of cough, asthmatic afflictions, and consumption resulting from breathing in rough, sharp and jagged splinters of stone.
In 1938, the US Secretary of Labor started the “Stop Silicosis” campaign after hundreds of workers died from silicosis while working on construction of the Gauley Bridge tunnel.
In the 1990’s, the Department of Labor recognized that worker exposure to crystalline silica still caused a significant health hazard and once again rolled out a campaign to raise awareness and highlight safe work practices “It’s Just Not Dust”. The source of exposure to airborne crystalline silica today is not predominately in tunnel construction, it occurs with the increased use of dry cutting, drilling and grinding of concrete and masonry material in construction along with the popularity of stone surfaces in residential and commercial buildings.
In 2016 OSHA published a detailed new standard for OSHA’s new standard for Crystalline Silica. And now compliance dates are approaching with June 23, 2017 for the Construction Industry and most of General Industry scheduled for June 23, 2018.
How are you set for June 23, 2017 compliance with the Construction Industry requirements your business must follow in order to protect your employees against the effects of crystalline silica.
Here are six questions to ask:
- Are your site work protocols and equipment aligned with the new “Safe Methods for Working with Silica” issued by OSHA?
- Are you confident any recently performed a worker exposure to crystalline silica measurements reflect the new exposure control methods issued by OSHA in regulation §1926.1153 Respirable crystalline silica.
- Do you have a respirator program for your employees wearing respirators (even dust masks?)
- Have your employees wearing respirators been medically cleared to wear these respirators?
- Are your employees receiving training about the dangers of crystalline silica?
- Do you have records of your training?
If you answered no to any of these question and your employees are potentially exposed to crystalline silica, you may not be in compliance the latest OSHA standards. Contact Emilcott today or check out our full compliance checklist. We offer comprehensive solutions to:
- Write programs customized to your business that comply with the OSHA standard
- Provide training on using the methods recommended by OSHA in specified exposure control methods
- Help you meet the requirements on communicating the hazards of silica to be in compliance with OSHA hazard communication regulations
- Train your employees at their work site on your schedule
- Provide on site exposure assessments for silica.