For any employer, employee safety must always be a primary concern. Over time, we are learning and understanding more about the materials we use and how they affect our bodies over the long run.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association) developed guidelines to protect employees from crystalline silica. Their new silica rule, approvedin June 2016, will be strictly enforced beginning June of 2017, as OSHA is holding more employers responsible for their work methods. 

What Is Crystalline Silica and Its Health Effects?

Crystalline silica is a compound found in a lot of construction occupational materials such as concrete, masonry, granite and even soil. Various studies have shown that long-term exposure to this material can cause complications later in life – such as lung cancer and respiratory diseases, as well as various other ailments including silicosis, which were the catalyst for establishing new rules such as this one. 

Implementing the New Guideline

While these rules can be beneficial to the employee, they also come with disadvantages for both employee and employer, causing confusion and frustration for both sides on the subject of how to best tackle safety.

OSHA has provided several tools to help employers follow the new guidelines, including fact sheets that present a simple layout of rules and regulation.

Employers have two options for implementing these rules:

Option1 lays out proper dusting handling methods and equipment usage; it does not require offering employees further testing.

Option 2 requires employers to abide by certain testing regulations in order to make sure that employees are protected.

Regardless of the option chosen, employers must be following the new rules and have a plan in place by June 23, 2017. Employers must produce a written plan for controlling exposure as well as a full detailed plan outlining who is implementing the plan, and which employees must undergo medical testing. This ensures that employers are following the new guidelines strictly, and that employees will be safe from silica as they continue to work.

Conclusion

It’s important that no matter which side of the rule you are on, taking certain safety precautions to protect your employees is an important discussion. Not having plans in place or following certain precautions could end in a tragic accident due to improper planning.

Visit OSHA’s website and read over the fact sheets to make sure that you are taking the proper precautions in your jobsite.

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