How OSHA’s New Silica Provisions Will Effect Contractors

Ally D'Ovidio

New regulations governing silica will result in contractors creating written exposure plans, providing employees with silica risk training, and offering medical exams to exposed workers.

OSHA recently made its first revisions regarding crystalline silica rules in over 40 years. According to OSHA, crystalline silica is composed of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals. The exposure to crystalline silica occurs during construction activities including blasting concrete structures, jackhammering, rock/well drilling, brick and concrete cutting. During these activities, silica dust is released into the air.

OSHA’s new regulations have evolved from some workers getting silicosis, which occurs when one breathes in silica dust in large quantities. OSHA has established a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) which is the maximum amount of crystalline silica to which workers may be exposed during an 8-hour work shift.

OSHA’s provisions go into effect June 23, 2016 and the construction industry has until June 2017 to comply. OSHA’s provisions include:

  • Reducing the PEL to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift
  • Requiring employees to use engineering controls and practices to keep worker exposure at or below the PEL
    • Such as, wetting down work operations, using vacuums to keep silica dust out of the air
    • Limiting worker access to high exposure areas
    • Large milling machines must have vacuum control systems attached
  • Employers must develop a written exposure plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train on silica risks and how to limit exposures
  • Employers must keep record of workers’ silica exposure to medical exams
  • Employers are required to understand potential employee exposure to airborne silica and required to ensure an employee’s exposure is below PEL

STAY TUNED¬Â¦for counsel on how to comply with this new regulation and for training help and guidelines.