IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT OSHA'S NEW SILICA REGULATIONS
After years of following rules that are based on research over 40 years old, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States has finally decided to update the regulations regarding Silica exposure. For those working, or who have businesses in the North American industries, this regulation change will greatly impact your business, work experience and even your life, for the better.
First, What is Silica?
Crystalline Silica is a toxin found in stone, brick, concrete, and other materials. You expose it by cutting, drilling, crushing, grinding etc. The dust gets into your lungs, which can cause Silicosis, an incurable and fatal lung disease. Crystalline Silica also seriously increases your risk of lung cancer, other respiratory diseases, and kidney disease.
Here’s what you need to know:
- There’s a new Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL)
- This means, employers must make sure that their workers are only exposed to a max of 50 micrograms of crystalline silica dust per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour average.
- Better protection for employees
- New rules regarding exposure control, breathing protection, safety communication etc.
- There are 2 separate standards:
- General industry and Maritime
(The reason for this, is to make sure the different features of each industry are covered)
Starting June 23, 2017, the Construction, General, Maritime, and the Hydraulic Fracturing industry will have 1 to 5 years (depending on the industry) to meet the new rules.
How does this Change Affect You?
As an Employer
- You will have clear, affordable, flexible schedules and set of instructions to follow to make sure your employees are protected from Silica exposure.
- In most cases, you will have to make sure that silica dust is wetted down or vacuumed up before workers can breathe it in.
- You are required to limit access to high exposure areas, provide training, provide respiratory protection when controls are not enough to limit exposure, provide written exposure control plans, and in some cases, measure exposures.
- You are required to offer medical exams to highly exposed workers.
- If you have better ideas about how to provide protection, you have the flexibility to use them in your business — as long as you make sure that your methods effectively reduce your workers’ exposure to silica dust according to the regulations.
As an Employee
- If you have developed an illness as a result of Silica exposure, you can work with your employer to make employment or lifestyle decisions to protect your health.
- Safer work environments
- You are protected by law to make sure you are not being exposed to levels of Silica dust higher than the permissible limit.
- You will have a clear understanding of what you need to do in order to limit the amount of Silica dust you are exposed to while working.
- You have the ability to deny work if it does not follow the Silica exposure regulations.
How This Will Benefit You
OSHA estimates that the new rule will save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of Silicosis each year; and those numbers don’t include all of the people who will be saved from developing other fatal or damaging illnesses such as, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and kidney disease as a result of Silica exposure.
The flexibility of the new regulations allows for employers and employees, of all types and size of businesses, to make the changes needed without losing time, spending a lot of money, or a great amount of difficulty.
Ultimately, it’s pretty clear that these new regulation changes are nothing but beneficial to everyone involved in this industry.
For more information about the new OSHA Silica regulations, and what you can do to make your workplace safer, visit www.osha.gov/silica