It took a wave of worker deaths in the 1930’s to spur The U.S. Department of Labor to first address and investigate the harmful effects of respirable crystalline silica. Today, an estimated 2.3 million workers are exposed to the silica dust and the previous exposure limits dated back over 40 years. It wasn’t until recent years that an updated review of scientific evidence and industry standards took place.
Protect your workers…and do it soon.
According to their 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.”
While the new rule took effect on June 23, 2016, enforcement will be delayed to ensure employers have the proper guidance and materials they need to become compliant. Employers now have anywhere from 1 to 5 years to accomplish this, depending on their industry.
Here’s What You Can Expect From The New Silica Standard
OSHA outlined two separate standard guidelines: one for Construction and one for General Industry/Maritime. Therefore, the documents can better cater to the needs of the different industries and offer encompassing businesses greater flexibility.
Both documents, though, ultimately aim to protect workers’ health by outlining the ways in which employers are expected to meet the newly established silica exposure limit:
New Permissible Exposure Limit – OSHA has reduced the respirable crystalline silica PEL to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3), averaged over an 8-hour shift,
This new silica standard can be met once employers comply with key regulations such as: developing a written exposure control plan, designating competent personnel, restrict housekeeping practices and more.
What OSHA’s New Silica Standard Means For You
The biggest difference regarding silica exposure today is the sheer amount of knowledge that now exists surrounding it. With silica being found in more things like adhesives, paints, soaps and glass, exposure hazards now go even beyond construction. “It touches a lot of industries,” says IBT
Safety and Warehouse Equipment Group Director, Gary Porter, “and it opens up new industries that now have to comply.”
If you’re in one of the many industries that could potentially expose workers to silica, you’re required to be proactive and assess your work environment.
First, “you should be doing air monitoring to determine whether or not you’re in compliance,” says Tom Smith, IBT Director of Safety Consulting and Training. “We do this by placing the appropriate collection medium into a person’s breathing zone for about eight hours, and then evaluating it.”
Not only does taking initial records of exposure help employers ensure they’re doing everything in their power to protect employees’ health, but it also supplies them with defensible proof in the regulatory world, should inspectors come knocking.
The buck doesn’t stop there, though. Steps must then be taken to bring exposure down, and thankfully, OSHA has extended their compliance schedule.
“There are some pretty extensive physical adjustments to be made,” Smith says. For example, “you have to identify zones where employees are going to be exposed and make the necessary changes.” These changes can come in the form of: personal protective equipment, additional Industrial hygiene programs, employee training, etc.
So Here’s The Most Important Thing Your Business Can Do:
Invest in your people. The importance of spending money now in order to make the adjustments that, down the line, will protect both employees from illness and employers from fines and lawsuits, cannot be emphasized enough.
The regulatory process is far more complex now than it use to be, but according to Smith, it doesn’t have to be. “Let [IBT] keep up with the regulations and take care of it so you don’t have to.” IBT has the expertise to see a problem through, from start to solution. “We not only engineer out the problem, but we then take steps to offer a solution via consulting services and from there, provide the products and services needed to execute it,” says Porter. Our bottom line is always to help employers create and maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their workforce (and maybe even duck a few fines in the process).
Need More Guidance?
Learn more about OSHA’s Silica Standard here.
For more information, or if you have questions, regarding the regulation and how to become compliant, contact us today!