Image source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) delayed enforcement of the crystalline silica standard for the construction industry to September in order to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers.
OSHA issued a final rule on silica dust exposure in early 2016, with the goal to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone.
The rule would reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift (previous limit was 250 micrograms). It also would require employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
Other provisions of the final rule would provide medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and give them information about their lung health. It also would provide flexibility to help employers protect workers from silica exposure.
OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The Final Rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.
Source: ForConstructionPros; U.S. Department of Labor