The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Cal/OSHA, recently updated two important regulations. December 29, 2023, the regulation for the control to occupational exposure to Silica changed. And this past week, an announcement was made regarding COVID-19. We thought it would be beneficial for all of us to review some of these changes.
Respirable crystalline silica is a carcinogen. It is an inhalation hazard that over time, can cause damage to your respiratory system, including diseases such as silicosis and cancer. Unfortunately, it has the potential to be fatal. This type of silica is found in many sources, like sand, stone, concrete, and mortar. You can find silica in products like glass, pottery, ceramics, and bricks.
Cal/OSHA has an existing regulation regarding the control of respirable crystalline silica. As of the end of last December, an emergency temporary standard (ETS) went into effect that applies specifically to the artificial stone industry, which has been identified as the source of many cases of silicosis. Here is a link to the Cal/OSHA information page on the topic.
The ETS requires the following controls to reduce the exposure of silica dust to workers:
· The use of wet methods to control the dust.
· Increased use of air monitoring to ensure the exposure limits are not exceeded. Monitoring must be documented at least every six months.
· Posting of signage regarding the use of silica in English and Spanish.
· Training employees on the hazards of exposure to silica, the control methods that must be used, and how to report signs and symptoms of any silica-related illnesses. When necessary, the training must be conducted in Spanish as well as English.
· The use of respiratory protection, unless the employer can demonstrate through air monitoring that it isn’t necessary.
· Reporting the use of silica to the Cal/OSHA Carcinogen Unit (this can be done online).
Cal/OSHA has relaxed some of the requirements for handling cases of COVID-19 in the workplace in response to updates made by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on January 9, 2024. You can read about it here. Here’s a brief overview of those changes.
· For someone with COVID with symptoms, the infectious period is a minimum of 24 hours from the day of symptom onset, during which they must be excluded from the workplace. They may return if 24 hours have passed with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and their symptoms are mild and improving.
· For someone who tests positive for COVID, but has no symptoms, there is no infectious period for the purpose of isolation or exclusion. If symptoms develop, the criteria above will apply.
· Testing is no longer required for “close contact”with someone who has COVID. Testing for COVID-19 is only required if symptoms appear.
Things that did not change:
· Employers must provide training regarding COVID-19. (See our online course here).
· Employers must provide COVID-19 tests to employees at no charge and tests should be taken during work time.
· Someone who has had COVID-19 and returns to work must wear a mask, provided by the employer, for 10 days from the start of their symptoms. Employees may still voluntarily wear masks at their own discretion.
· Employers must inform anyone in the workplace who has been exposed to COVID-19.
Weekly Discussion Challenge:
We mentioned that silica is an inhalation hazard, meaning that you inhale or breathe in the dust for it to affect you. Inhalation is one type of a “route of exposure.” Other routes for hazards to affect you are contact, ingestion, and injection. What hazards do you work around? How do they affect you? What controls do you use to limit your exposure?