“Silica dust poses a health threat and has been an issue for awhile,” according to Mark Rossier, a consultant at a national construction safety services firm. He elaborates, “Inhaling enough concentration of silica particulates can lead to the same health issues as working with asbestos.”
OSHA’S RESPONSE ON RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA STANDARD.
If you’re wearing out your knees in the front lines of the trowel trenches, OSHA can be thought of as purely just a crusader on behalf of your ability to go home in one piece every night.
If you’re the owner or manager of a concrete contracting business, let’s just be honest that OSHA and its regulations can mean pounding headaches and added expenses. Absolutely, you want your crew safe and well. That’s always the imperative on top of the obvious: making money. That doesn’t make compliance any less of a hassle, initially. Understanding the rule will, though.
Other than time for training and ensuring compliance, the Respirable Crystalline Silica Regulation does not necessarily mean additional expense, depending upon the equipment and methods you currently use.
Here’s what you need to know about OSHA’s latest regulation impacting our industry:
- The previous permissible exposure limits (PELs) for crystalline silica were the same since 1971, outdated and didn’t adequately protect workers.
- The PEL standard was 250 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air, and is now 50 micrograms per cubic meter.
- The rule includes provisions for measuring how much silica workers are exposed to, using effective methods for reducing exposures, providing medical exams to workers with high silica exposures, and more.
- It requires construction employers to provide training, have a written exposure plan, designate someone to execute that plan, keep records of employees’ silica exposures a few other somewhat time-consuming but otherwise inexpensive steps.
- OSHA has included a table of common construction tasks and approved solutions to mitigate respirable silica exposure, called “Table 1” on their fact sheet.
The good news (in addition to a safer crew)
Much of what is required for compliance is already addressed by the tools and accessories your crew is already using, or does not apply unless your crew spends more consecutive hours on a listed task than is typically the case at the average job site.
“Read that Table 1, because being able to meet that criteria in the table can save a lot of time,” Rossier said. “If you do what is required for the task listed in Table 1, no need to monitor air or provide the specified health screenings.”
“However, if you don’t have the necessary safety equipment and can’t take the necessary precautions – or if the specific task is not listed in Table 1 – then you need to test,” Rossier summarized. “If it’s above 50 micrograms per cubic meter, then special respiratory protection with cartridges, a full facemask and/or possible health screenings are needed.”
Much of the accepted measures to comply listed in Table 1 are met with simple, common dust control methods, such as vacuum systems, use of water feed attachments to keep dust down and shrouds.
Please take care of yourself out there and breathe a little easier, hopefully.
Note: This article is an informational overview but is not a substitute for any training or other OSHA requirements for compliance. Please visit www.OSHA.com for details.
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