The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new standards to help protect workers from harmful crystalline silica, which becomes breathable during common industrial work. Here’s a summary of why it’s so important and how you can meet these new requirements.
Crystalline silica is a common mineral that can found in sand, stone, concrete, brick, rock, and mortar. It’s released into the air when cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing these materials.
Exposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause respiratory diseases like silicosis (formerly known as grinder's asthma or potter's rot), lung cancer, and can also cause kidney disease.
Over 2 million American workers are considered at risk. OSHA estimates that more than 840,000 construction workers are exposed to potentially harmful silica levels.
There are two new OSHA regulations based on industry: (1) construction and (2) general industry and maritime. Both rules dictate new limits for exposure to crystalline silica and additional protections for at-risk workers.
* Micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour day.
Standards take effect on June 23, 2016, after which industries have one to five years to comply, based on this schedule:
June 23, 2017: Construction
June 23, 2018: General industry and maritime; Hydraulic fracturing (exception, Engineering Controls)
June 23, 2021: Engineering Controls to limit exposure in hydraulic fracturing operations
When you can’t limit the amount of silica dust in the air, respirators can protect your workers from overexposure.
Use these tools and techniques to limit the amount of dust that escapes into the air (and becomes harmful to your workers).
Some text about how great these tools are.
Dust extraction systems and vacuums reduce (and can even eliminate) airborne dust when drilling, grinding, or hammering. To comply with standards, dust extractors must provide the airflow recommended by the tool manufacturer, or greater, and have a filter with 99%+ efficiency.
Some tools require shrouds or attachments to connect with dust extraction systems.
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