New Silica Standard Information



PURPOSE: The purpose of this paper is to advise all personnel involved in project planning (means and methods) and execution (processes and procedures) of recent changes in the OSHA Silica standards that impact our operations. BACKGROUND: I n March of 2016, OSHA issued new rules for protecting workers against crystalline silica that impact both the construction and general industries. The new rules took effect in June 2016 and OSHA will begin enforcement activities September 23, 2017. The rule changes affect both the old General Industry Standard as well as the Construction Standard. The new rule significantly lowers the permissible exposure limits (PEL) for silica and requires employers to undertake a series of protective measures depending upon the task and/or equipment being used. Silica is the 2nd most commonly appearing mineral in the earth’s surface and is present in products like sand, rock, grout, concrete products (brick, blocks, cement pipe, etc) and quartz. It is typically presented as a very fine dust particle that can cause silicosis, an incurable disease of the lungs. Quartz, the third most common mineral in the earth’s crust, also contains silica. STANDARD SUMMARY: Workers can be exposed during many different construction activities that are common to our work. The most common exposures generally occur during abrasive blasting with sand to remove paint and rust from bridges, tanks, concrete structures and other surfaces. Other construction activities that may result in silica exposure include the use of jackhammers; rock/ well drilling; rock crushing; concrete mixing (in particular, powdered concrete/cement); brick/concrete block/cement pipe cutting; breaking cement or rock; tuck pointing and tunneling operations. Since silica is a naturally occurring mineral it can also be an exposure source in dirt moving operations where significant dust is generated. The new standard requires employers to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica and to take steps to protect workers. The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for employee exposure to silica over an 8-hour Time-Weighted-Average (TWA) has been reduced to 50 µg/m3. This is an approximate 80% reduction from the previous construction standard PEL. In addition, OSHAhas established specific controls for certain tasks and equipment. The table below lists 18 specific Tasks/ Equipment and their associated Control Methods which must be used whenever these operations are performed. Since some of these are common in our business, planners and estimators need to consider the mandatory controls shown in the table and identify them in the means and methods for projects. Project managers and superintendents need to ensure they implement the mandatory controls. Tasks that present potential silica exposures that are not listed in this table will require additional methods of compliance (for example, air monitoring).

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