OSHA Releases New Silica Rule FAQs and Training Videos

August 28th, 2018 by Jordan Scott

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released new guidance for employers and workers on requirements for its silica standard through an updated frequently asked questions (FAQs) page and six new training videos.

The videos instruct users on methods for controlling exposure to silica dust when performing construction tasks or using construction equipment. The videos cover handheld power saws, jackhammers, drills and grinders.

The 53 listed FAQs focus on the construction industry. The questions address:

  • Scope;
  • Definitions;
  • Exposure control methods;
  • Housekeeping;
  • Written exposure control plans;
  • Medical surveillance;
  • Employee information and training; and
  • Record-keeping.

This new guidance comes two months after enforcement of the silica rule began for general industry, including manufacturing and maritime on June 23, 2018. Enforcement began for the construction industry September 23, 2017; however, OSHA offered compliance assistance for employers who made good-faith efforts to comply with the new standard for the first 30 days of enforcement in both cases.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, OSHA cited 117 violations in the first six months of silica rule enforcement for the construction industry. As of April 23, 2018, there were 35 cited violations for failure to conduct and exposure assessment of worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica. There were 31 cited violations for failing to adhere to the Table 1 list of equipment/tasks and OSHA’s required engineering and work control methods. The third highest violation category was for lack of a written exposure control plan, for which OSHA cited 20 violations.

The silica rule is intended to limit workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica. It reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for workers to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift. It also requires employers to implement engineering controls, offer medical exams and develop control plans related to the issue.

According to OSHA, as many as 2.3 million workers, many in the construction and manufacturing industries, will be affected by the rule.

Silica is a key ingredient in the manufacture of glass. OSHA says the most severe exposures to crystalline silica result from abrasive blasting. It’s used in many industrial applications, such as etching or frosting glass. Additionally, crystalline silica exposure can occur in the maintenance, repair and replacement of the linings of refractory brick furnaces, such as those used to manufacture glass. Other exposures to silica dust occur in china and ceramic manufacturing and the tool and die, steel and foundry industries.

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