OSHA Regs: Are You Ready?

 In Tip of the Week
Later this month, OSHA will begin enforcement of the Silica regulations for construction.  Are you ready?  Do you need to be ready?  What is silica; why is it important; and what is your exposure level and how will that impact me?Silica, or the more precise term, crystalline silica, is a naturally occurring substance, sometimes referred to as quartz.  It is one of the most common substances on earth.  It is found in many worksites, in soil, sand, concrete, masonry, rocks, granite and landscaping materials.  It is not harmful to touch, however, when ground, cut, or made into particulates, it is harmful to breathe.  It is an inhalation hazard.  In many ways, this is very similar to asbestos and asbestos exposure.

Simply stated, silica is harmful to your health when in a respirable form, usually found in dust.  It can cause a number of lung diseases, including lung cancer and silicosis, and kidney disease.  Silicosis is caused by silica crystals entering the lungs over a long period of time.  Once in the lungs the crystals eventually the cells in the lung walls where they cause scar tissue and irreparable damage.  Work Safe, British Columbia (BC) has a very good video showing the process, it is linked to the right.  Like asbestosis, silicosis doesn’t happen from just one breath or one exposure, it is caused by chronic exposure.  The bad news about this is that this disease is not curable.  But the good news is that it is preventable.

Silica is often encountered in the construction industry, for example, when employees are using masonry saws, grinders, drills, jackhammers and handheld powered chipping tools; operating vehicle-mounted drilling rigs; milling; operating crushing machines; and/or using heavy equipment for demolition or certain other tasks.  It is also a common material in some foundry work, sand cleaning operations, etching or frosting of glass, and even is used in the electronics industry.  It is frequently used in cleaning in the marine industry.  And can even be found in some kitty litter.

What is your permissible exposure level (PEL) to Silica?  That may depends on where you are located.  OSHA’s PEL for respirable crystalline silica, over a period of 8 hours is 50 micrograms/m3.  The action level is 25 micrograms, and note that these are micrograms, not milligrams.  The action level is that level of exposure to a hazard where an employer must take action to provide protection for their employees.  At this level, an employer must provide atmospheric monitoring to ensure that the PEL is not exceeded.

There are other factors also involved in your potential exposure to silica.  Do you perform your work outside, where there is good ventilation?  If working inside, can the area be ventilated, or do you work with equipment that contains the dust being produced by your work?  Do you use wet methods, which can keep the dust down.  How much silica is in the products used can also be a factor.  Some SCM clients use alternate materials that do not contain silica for high pressure paint removal, eliminating the hazard.  Substitution of the less hazardous form of silica-containing materials is a great means of maximizing protection to your employees.

Some employers default to a control method specified in in Table 1 of the regulations.  The table is linked to the right, and is fairly consistent between OSHA and State Plan State regulations, such as Cal/OSHA.  When control methods require, Table 1 will specify when a respiratory protection program must be implemented, which will include the use of respirators providing an Assigned Protection Factor (APF) of 10.

Training is also an important part of protecting employees from the hazards of working around silica-containing materials and OSHA requires that workers get trained if their work involves potential exposure to silica.  SCM has 2 online courses for those that need more training on the subject.  Each course meets regulatory requirements.  The Silica in Construction course will meet the training requirements for employees.  We recommend the Silica in Construction for Employers and Competent Persons course for those who are supervisors or who others who may need to serve in the required Competent Person role.  Both courses are linked below.

September 23, 2017 is the date when OSHA will begin enforcing the Silica in Construction regulation.  The enforcement date for General Industry and Maritime is June 23, 2018.   Will you be ready?

SCM Highlights

OSHA will be enforcing the new Silica regulation in September.  Are you ready?  Get your training with SCM’s 
$20/person.  Sign up here: Silica Training
Silica in Construction for Competent Person. $29/person.  Sign up here: Silica Competent Person.
Cal/OSHA Outreach 30 Hour Trainers!
SCM has two trainers that are available to provide this training to your workers, in English and/or Spanish. See the link here Just call 925-362-2265 to learn more, or email us at info@scm-safety.com.
Cal/OSHA General Industry 10 hour Classadded to the line-up!  SCM has just added a GISO 10 hour class on October 4 and 5 at our Training Center in San Ramon! Link provided below for signing up!
Upcoming Training At SCM:
Sept 11 – 13:HAZWOPER 24 hr
Sept 11 – 15 40 hr
Sept 14 – 15:HAZWOPER 16 hr
Oct 4 – 5: Cal/OSHA
GISO 10 hr $195
Oct 12 – 13: Cal/OSHA
Construction 10 hr
* Send 3 or more, get a discount!
You can register online through the links provided, or call our office at 925-362-2265.
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