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A Quick Overview of OSHA’s Silica Dust Rule for General Industry and Maritime

Posted on April 28, 2018

Enforcement for OSHA’s new silica dust rule for general industry and maritime begins on June 23, 2018. Here’s a brief overview of the standard.

What industries are affected?

Workers in a variety of industries are potentially exposed to silica dust. Here’s the list of industries OSHA has identified:

  • Asphalt paving products
  • Asphalt roofing materials
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Industries with captive foundries
  • Concrete products
  • Cut stone
  • Dental equipment and supplies
  • Dental laboratories
  • Flat glass
  • Iron foundries
  • Jewelry
  • Mineral processing
  • Mineral wool
  • Nonferrous sand casting foundries
  • Non-sand casting foundries
  • Other ferrous sand casting foundries
  • Other glass products
  • Paint and coatings
  • Porcelain enameling
  • Pottery
  • Railroads
  • Ready-mix concrete
  • Refractories
  • Refractory repair
  • Shipyards
  • Structural clay

What is the new exposure limit?

The new permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica at 50 μg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour day. The action level, over which activities like exposure monitoring and medical surveillance are required, is 25 μg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour day.

What can employers do to keep worker exposure below the PEL?

Employers are required to limit access to areas where workers could be exposed and to use engineering controls (e.g., dust controls) and work practices to limit exposure where feasible. When these solutions aren’t sufficient to keep exposure below the PEL, employers must provide respirators.

Examples of dust controls:

  • Wet methods — applying water at the point where silica dust is made
  • Local exhaust ventilation — removing silica dust at or near the point where it is made
  • Enclosures — isolating the work process or the worker

The standard also specifies the housekeeping practices that employers should use. The preferred methods are wet sweeping, HEPA-filtered vacuuming, and other methods that minimize the likelihood of exposure. Dry sweeping and dry brushing are only allowed if the preferred methods aren’t feasible.

What else does the standard require?

In addition to limiting exposure to silica dust, the new standard has four other major requirements:

  • Written exposure control plan — This plan must identify tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers.
  • Medical exams — These must be offered every three years to workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year.
  • Training — Workers must be made aware of the health effects of silica exposure, workplace tasks that can expose them to silica, and ways to limit exposure.
  • Recordkeeping — Employers must keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

For more information, explore the OSHA Fact Sheet or read the full standard. To learn how a proactive approach to housekeeping can help you reduce the risk of silica exposure, join our free webinar on May 23.