An Overview Of The OSHA Silica Regulations

There are many hazards in the workplace. While different businesses have different dangers, safety should always be a priority. In order to ensure the safety of working employees,  OSHA has instituted several standards of practice that serve to help provide a safe and productive work environment. These standards cover a wide range of topics, including Silica. Here is an overview of the OSHA silica regulations.

What Is Silica?

Crystalline silica is a mineral that is commonly found in the crust of the earth. Many common materials such as sand, stone, concrete, etc all contain silica. This material is commonly used in the construction of products like glass. Pottery, ceramics, bricks, and artificial stones.

How Are You Exposed To Silica?

Exposure to silica can happen in many ways. It’s unlikely that you’ll be exposed to silica by dealing with the finished products that contain the mineral. So handling pottery or ceramics shouldn’t give any cause for concern. That being said, the construction of these products can greatly increase your chances of exposure. 

Respirable silica is tiny particles of the mineral that can be inhaled. These particles are around 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, making the inhalation of respirable silica something to be concerned about.

You can be exposed to silica from any activity involving the dust of something with silica to be kicked up such as:

  • Sandblasting
  • Sawing brick
  • Concrete destruction
  • Sanding
  • Dilling
  • Demolition
  • Etc

These activities increase the change of respirable silica to be spread into the air and then inhaled by you. Exposure to silica can cause health concerns.

What Are The Dangers Of Crystalline Silica?

While external exposure to silica isn’t dangerous, inhalation of the mineral can cause serious, and even fatal illnesses and injuries. Silicosis, lung cancer, tuberculosis, kidney disease, and COPD are all possible health problems related to the inhalation of silica. Since crystalline silica can cause so many health issues, OSHA instituted standard procedures in the workforce to help protect employees from potential issues.

What Are The OSHA Silica Regulations?

OSHA has released two separate standards for silica regulations. One is for construction, and the other is for general industry and maritime. 

Construction

Construction employers are required to keep their employees safe by implementing the following standards, including:

  • Implementing an exposure control plan that highlights the tasks involving exposure as well as means to protect worker health.
  • Designate an individual to implement the exposure control plan
  • Minimize housekeeping that could potentially expose employees to silica
  • Offer health exams including chest X-rays and lung tests every three years to all workers who are required to wear a respirator for at least 30 days out of the year
  • Inform employees on which work operations may result in silica exposure as well as how to mitigate the risk of exposure
  • Keep accurate records of exposure data, medical exams, etc.

General Industry And Maritime

While the end goal is the same, ie protecting the health of workers from the dangers of silica exposure, the process is slightly different for those working in the general industry rather than construction.

  • Protect all workers from over-exposure to silica 
  • Minimize worker access to areas where they could be exposed to silica in quantities that exceed the permissible exposure limit
  • Provide employees with respirators to limit exposure to dust containing silica
  • Implement housekeeping practices that avoid the creation of airborne dust containing silica
  • Offer health exams including chest X-rays and lung tests every three years to all workers who are required to wear a respirator for at least 30 days out of the year
  • Inform employees on which work operations may result in silica exposure as well as how to mitigate the risk of exposure
  • Keep accurate records of exposure data, medical exams, etc.

While there are many dangers involved in working with silica, following OSHA’s safety measures can greatly reduce the risk of harmful exposure. If you need help creating an action plan to help protect workers from exposure, or you’re concerned about company practices that may be harming the health of employees, reach out to a qualified work health expert today. 

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