OSHA’s Respirable Crystalline Silica standard for general industry and maritime requires employers to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica and to take other steps to protect workers.
Among other things, the standard requires employers to:
- Assess employee exposures to silica if it may be at or above an action level of 25 µg/m3 (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day;
- Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour day;
- Limit workers’ access to areas where they could be exposed above the PEL;
- Use dust controls to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL;
- Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL;
- Use housekeeping methods that do not create airborne dust, if feasible;
- Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers;
- Offer medical exams – including chest X-rays and lung function tests – every three years for workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year;
- Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure; and
- Keep records of exposure measurements, objective data, and medical exams.
General industry and maritime employers must comply with all requirements of the standard by June 23, 2018, except for the following:
Medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2020. Medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2018.
Hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry must implement engineering controls to limit exposures to the new PEL by June 23, 2021.
Cassie Lee is an Account Manager and Business Development Professional with over a decade of experience in environmental consulting. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-983-1719 with any questions or for assistance on testing silica levels.