Here’s What You Should Know About the New Silica Standard
On March 24, 2016, OSHA issued it’s final rule on updating silica safety standards. Safety consultants in Atlanta and across the country are now tasked with implementing the first update to silica safety requirements since 1971.
Silica dust is a substance encountered by workers in a wide range of industries including brick manufacturing, glassmaking, foundry work, ceramics, fracking, construction, and even auto body repair shops. Inhalation of silica dust has been linked to an increased risk of developing silicosis, an incurable and sometimes fatal lung disease, in addition to lung cancer and other potentially debilitating respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease.
What the New Standard has Changed
Under the new PEL, workers’ exposures must be limited to 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air (μg/m3), averaged over an 8-hour day. The new standards cut maximum exposure time by half for general industry and maritime, and by as much as five times in construction.
Employers are required to use water, ventilation or vacuums to reduce worker exposure. If those reduction methods can’t adequately limit silica exposure, the employer must provide respirators. Employers must also develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to high-risk employees and provide in depth training on what risks silica inhalation poses and how to limit exposure.
What this Means for You
The new standards take effect on June 23, 2016. From that point, industries have one to five years to comply with most requirements, based on the following schedule:
Construction – June 23, 2017, one year after the effective date.
General Industry and Maritime – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.
Hydraulic Fracturing – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021.
While OSHA insists that the new standards will further protect an estimated 2.3 million workers and provide net benefits of $2.8 to $.47 billion over the next 60 years, many who work in the affected industries aren’t so sure.
The new changes are being met with resistance from people that insist the old standards were perfectly adequate, when properly implemented. They also argue that the costs of updating facilities, policies and procedures are prohibitively high.
What Does This Mean For The Future?
Safety technology has improved significantly since 1971, in both cost and functionality. Additionally, employee safety should be the top priority of any company. If the prospect of bringing your workplace policies and procedures into compliance with the new silica standards by the deadline seems overwhelming, it’s time to bring in a safety consultant.
An authorized safety consultant will perform a jobsite risk assessment and draft a plan identifying risk areas and laying out recommended steps for implementing solutions. All you need to do is continue to focus on running your business.
For more information on how safety consultation can bring your business into compliance with the new silica standards, contact us or call 770-232-1977.