26 Apr NEW CRYSTALLINE SILICA STANDARD FOR INDUSTRY
As many of you know, the silica standard is changing, and although OSHA has attempted to simplify the process, it is still confusing. The new Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) is 50 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3). This new PEL is for all forms of respirable silica, so formulas are no longer required to determine silica Time Weighted Average (TWA) or a different TWA for quartz compared to other silica pseudomorphs. Note that none of this applies to amorphous silica, which in many applications is regulated as a nuisance dust.
Exposure to crystalline silica can result in many health impacts, including the following:
- Lung cancer
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Kidney disease.
Employers will be required to offer medical examinations to employees exposed above the permissible exposure limit of 50 µg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour day, for 30 or more days a year. On June 23, 2020, employers will be required to offer medical examinations to employees exposed to silica at or above the standard’s action level of 25 µg/m3 averaged over an 8-hour day, for 30 or more days a year.
The new standard requirements include the following of employers who have employees who may foreseeably be exposed to concentrations of respirable silica above the action level of 25ug/m3:
- Determine employee exposure to respirable silica if the concentration may be at or above the 25 ug/m3 action level for an eight hour day.
- If exposures are betweem 25 and 50 ug/m3, the employer must repeat monitoring within six months. If exposure monitoring reaveals the employees are above the PEL, the employer must repeat the monitoring within three months.
- If silica exposure exceeds the PEL, the employer must take steps to protect the workers. This may be accomplished by limiting the number of workers into certain areas (Regulated Areas), through engineering controls such as ventilation or wetting, or by using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The hierarchy of controls for exposure control is Engineering Controls, then Work Practices, and finally, if nothing else is effective, PPE. Note that if respirators are used, medical exams, respiratory protection training, and fit testing are required.
- If exposure could be potetially above the action level, write and implement an Exposure Control Plan that identifies tasks and locations that potentially subjects workers to exposure, and methods that will be implemented to reduce worker exposure.
- Give medical exams – including chest X-rays and lung function tests – at least every three years for workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year beginning on June 23, 2020.
- Give medical exams – including chest X-rays and lung function tests – at least every three years for workers exposed at or above the PEL for 30 or more days per year beginning on June 23, 2018.
- Train workers to reduce their exposure through better housekeeping and work operations.
- Keep records of sampling results, plans for and action to reduce exposure, and medical exams.
If you need help in silica air sampling, exposure control planning, engineering and administrative consulting to reduce exposures, or respiratory protection training, please contact DirectCIH (Directcih.com).