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Six ways to control silica exposure in your workplace

May 24, 2017
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Last year the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a final rule to protect America’s workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rule establishes a new permissible exposure limit and includes several provisions that apply to the construction industry that will be enforced on Sept. 23. Are you ready?

Key provisions of OSHA’s crystalline silica rule

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.
  • Requires employers to use engineering and work practice controls to reduce worker exposure to silica dust (e.g., water to wet down the dust, or HEPA-filtered vacuums and local exhaust ventilation and dust collection systems to capture and remove dust), provide respirators when engineering and work practice controls cannot adequately limit exposure, limit worker access to high exposure areas, provide training, develop a written exposure control plan, measure exposures, and offer medical exams to highly exposed workers.

Now what? Here are six ways to begin controlling silica exposure in your workplace:

  1. Use materials that don't contain crystalline silica.
  2. Use engineering and work practice controls such as operating equipment within an enclosed cab, using tools with shrouds and dust collections systems, using a HEPA-filtered vacuum for cleaning.
  3. Work wet by using tools with integrated water delivery systems for cutting, chipping, drilling, sawing and grinding.
  4. Use personal protective equipment, such as respirators, when necessary.
  5. Do not eat, drink or smoke near crystalline silica dust.
  6. Wash hands and face before eating, drinking or smoking following exposure.

Pinnacol’s Safety Services team offers on-staff industrial hygienists who can help evaluate on-the-job exposure to this and other airborne contaminants and recommend steps to reduce the risks. For more information on safeguarding against the hazards of crystalline silica at your organization, visit the Safety resources web page at Pinnacol.com. Or contact Safety On Call at safetyoncall@pinnacol.com.

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