With around two million construction workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica in more than 600,000 workplaces, OSHA said over 840,000 of these workers are exposed to silica levels higher than the new permissible exposure limit. (Photo Credit: NBC)
Construction employers must comply with all of OSHA's silica rule requirements by September 23, 2017. OSHA said it delayed enforcement, which was initially set for June 2017, to “conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employer[s].”
With around two million construction workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica in more than 600,000 workplaces, OSHA said over 840,000 of these workers are exposed to silica levels higher than the new permissible exposure limit (PEL).
The rule states that employers must both limit workers' silica exposure and take additional measures to further protect them from the hazard. To help accurately determine workers' exposure levels, OSHA has provided Table 1, which pairs everyday construction tasks with dust control methods. OSHA said employers who accurately follow the table do not need to measure their workers' silica exposure and are not subject to the PEL.
Alternatively, employers can choose to measure their workers' silica exposure on their own to determine which dust control methods would be most beneficial. If employers choose not to use Table 1, they must:
• Determine whether workers' silica exposure levels are at or above the action level of 25 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air over the course of an eight-hour day
• Protect workers from silica exposure levels that exceed the PEL of 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air over the course of an eight-hour day
• Put dust controls in place to protect workers from silica levels above the PEL, and
• Make respirators available to workers when dust controls alone are not enough to limit exposure.
No matter which method employers use to measure silica exposure, all must:
• Put together a written exposure control plan that includes: a list of tasks that will expose workers to silica; procedures for protecting workers during each of these tasks; and methods for restricting access to high exposure areas
• Name an employee to effectively implement the written plan
• Restrict housekeeping tasks that will result in silica exposure, and use other alternative methods
• Every three years, provide medical exams, including chest x-rays and lung function tests, to workers who are required to wear respirators 30 days each year or more
• Train workers on how to limit their silica exposure while performing tasks that result in exposure, and
• Keep accurate records of all workers' exposure and medical exams.
For more information, and access to Table 1, visit www.osha.gov/silica.