Stressed about silica?
By Joan Brown, Industrial Hygienist
Answers to your questions about Respirable Crystalline Silica for Construction
The Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction, 29 CFR 1926.1153, became enforceable on September 23, 2017. For employers that are still working towards compliance with the new standard and for those that don’t know where to start, below are some tips and resources to help you get into compliance.
- If you find reading the OSHA standard confusing, OSHA has published a Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction, which is much more reader-friendly. Refer to page 2 for the Roadmap for Meeting the Requirements of the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard to quickly and easily determine what requirements of the standard your company must meet.
- OSHA has identified 18 common construction tasks that generate high exposures to respirable crystalline silica and for each task, has specified engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection that protect workers. These tasks and controls are outlined in Table 1 of the standard. Employers who perform these tasks and fully and properly implement the controls in Table 1 do not have to assess employees’ silica exposure levels or keep employee exposures at or below the OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL).
- Employers who perform tasks in Table 1 and choose to follow alternative control methods (not follow the controls in Table 1) and for employers that perform tasks not included in Table 1, the employer must:
- Determine the levels of respirable crystalline silica that employees are exposed to.
- Limit employee exposures to a PEL of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA).
- Use engineering and work practice controls, to the extent feasible, to limit employee exposures to the PEL, and supplement the controls with respiratory protection when necessary.
- Keep records of employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
- All employers covered by the standard must:
- Provide respiratory protection when required.
- Restrict housekeeping practices that expose employees to respirable crystalline silica where feasible alternatives are available.
- Establish and implement a written exposure control plan, including designating a competent person.
- Offer medical exams to employees who will be required to wear a respirator under the standard for 30 or more days a year.
- Communicate hazards and train employees.
- Keep records of medical examinations.
Resources for Respirable Crystalline Silica
Pinnacol Assurance has industrial hygienists on staff that can assess employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica at your jobsite. Please note that the new OSHA Standard has created a high demand for our industrial hygiene services and there is currently a waiting period of two to three months.
Pinnacol also offers complimentary JJ Keller training materials:
- Crystalline Silica for Construction Employees (interactive training course and video)
- Crystalline Silica for Construction Employers (interactive training course and video)
The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) offers an online tool to create your own written exposure control plan. The site also contains training resources for hazard recognition, manuals and guides, presentations, toolbox talks, fact sheets, handouts and videos.
For more information on protecting your employees from the hazards of respirable crystalline silica at your worksite, visit the Safety resources web page at Pinnacol.com. Or contact us at Safety On Call at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 361-4700 or (888) 501-4752.