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Are You Doing Enough to Reduce Sources of Silica?

Matt Luman March 17, 2017 0

Crystalline Silica Regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that 2 million construction workers in the United States are exposed to crystalline silica. Inhaling these deadly particles—which are generated when sawing, drilling, crushing, and grinding stone, mortar or concrete—increases the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. Do you know the major sources of this harmful dust in construction work? Our latest blog rounds up OSHA’s requirements for construction personnel who are working with materials that contain crystalline silica:

Safety Regulations and Requirements for Employers
To protect workers from the modern hazards of this mineral, OSHA amended its ruling on Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica. The new rule limits the permissible exposure to only 50 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter of air in an eight-hour shift. Under the latest safety standards, construction employers are also required to:

  • Develop and execute a written exposure plan.
  • Assign a competent person for the implementation of the plan.
  • Limit work practices that expose employees to silica dust, especially when alternatives exist.
  • Offer medical examinations to applicable workers every three years.
  • Provide workforce training on how to minimize and address silica exposure.
  • Keep related medical and safety records.

The revised permissible exposure limit (PEL), which has not been updated for over 40 years, is estimated to prevent over 600 silica-related deaths each year.

Exposure Control Methods According to OSHA 

Aside from updated PELs, the latest rule also specified work practices and engineering control methods for workers and employers who are exposed to crystalline silica. Here are some of the recommendations and requirements of OSHA’s revised standard:

For handheld power saws

  • Make sure that the saw features an integrated water delivery system (that feeds water to the blade in a continuous manner).
  • Follow the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance instructions to lessen dust emissions.

For stand-mounted and handheld drills

  • Use drills that have a shroud or cowling with dust collection capabilities.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance instructions to lessen dust emissions.
  • The dust collector must provide the manufacturer’s recommended air flow, have a filter with at least 99 percent efficiency rate, and feature filter-cleaning mechanisms.
  • Clean holes using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum.

For jackhammers and other power-operated handheld chipping tools

  • Ensure that the tools are equipped with a dust collection system or a water delivery system (that sprays or provides a continuous stream of water at the impact point).
  • Follow the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance instructions to lessen dust emissions.
  • The dust collector must provide the manufacturer’s recommended air flow, have a filter with at least 99 percent efficiency rate, and feature filter-cleaning mechanisms.

Members of the construction sector are strongly recommended to review Table 1 in the OSHA regulation text for a complete list of all the control methods. Can you keep up with these construction regulations? 360training.com can help! Let our web-based OSHA 30-Hour Construction Training be your guide in understanding relevant compliance standards, personal protective equipment, and other safety essentials.

Sources:

https://www.osha.gov/silica/
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3683.pdf
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3681.pdf
https://www.osha.gov/silica/SilicaConstructionRegText.pdf
https://www.osha.gov/silica/Silica_FAQs_2016-3-22.pdf

 

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