Environmental 1,753 views May 03, 2018
OSHA’s silica regulations - a major shift in policy

In September 2017, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) launched new regulations across America to address a worsening crisis in the labour world - silica exposure -constituting the first major shift in silica policy since 1971 writes Joshua Clark.

Silica, if you work in construction, is a particle 100 times smaller than sand that is present in many building materials, particularly those containing quartz. Millions of these particles are released into the air during grinding, sanding, drilling, and similar processes.

Without respiratory protection, it is easily inhaled and sucked into the deepest crevices of the lungs, where it remains lodged for the rest of the worker’s life. Scar tissue forms around the particles and eventually progresses to the point of silicosis, which has ended many careers and lives over the years.

Kidney and obstructive pulmonary disease have also been documented. With approximately 2.3 million workers affected every year in the US, new regulations were long overdue. The six months that have passed have seen a flood of citations, with many more surely to come.

There’s also been time for the National Association of Home Builders to initiate dialogue with OSHA to clarify ambiguous language in the rules. Progress will be gradual, but the prognosis looks good for a robust culture of prevention to develop, which is a long time coming for a workforce that has been suffering with this menace for generations.

Under OSHA’s regulations, a workplace must be tested if it’s a candidate for silica exposure above the action level (25 μg/m³). If the reading is between 25 and 50, the test will be done periodically every six months to keep a record. If PEL can’t be brought below 50, official signage must be posted at all entrances marking the space as off-limits to anyone without protection. OSHA will be back every three months to test the levels.

A comprehensive exposure control plan must be drafted by the employer, describing the tasks in the workplace that involve exposure. At least 30 days out of the year starting June 23, 2018, medical surveillance will be implemented on every worker who operates within the contaminated space.  On June 23, 2020 this requirement expands to all employees exposed above the action level. It is also the employer’s responsibility to inform their workers of the conditions they are working under, and the steps being taken to limit the hazards.

At Enviro, we do our part by providing the best products on the market at highly competitive prices. The slight inconvenience of respiratory protection is totally worth it to avoid the devastation that silica can cause. You’ll find a curated selection of products that work great for silica protection here, and our general respiratory selection can be found here.

 Guest blogger Joshua Clark, represents Enviro Safety Products, one of the oldest e-commerce sites online.