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OSHA’s new Respirable Crystalline Silica Rule

As of June 23rd, 2016 the rule regarding the permissible exposure limits (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica have been updated. The agency determined that exposure at the previous allowable limits resulted in a considerable risk of developing or dying from severe diseases such as silicosis, kidney disease, lung disease and lung cancer. The new allowable PEL limit – updated for the first time in the past 40 years limits exposures to 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air, during an 8 hour work shift.

In order to keep exposure at or below the PEL engineering controls and work practices such as using local exhaust ventilation and wetting down surfaces can help keep silica dust out of the air. If these work practices are not sufficient enough to adequately keep levels down, the use of respirators is allowed.

Seton offers a full range of products from warning signs, barricades and respirators to ensure your workplace is compliant and your workers are safe.

Frequently asked questions on the the new regulation:

Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in many naturally occurring materials and used in many industrial products and at construction sites. Materials like sand, concrete, stone and mortar contain crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is also used to make products such as glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks, concrete and artificial stone. Industrial sand used in certain operations, such as foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), is also a source of silica.
Inhaling very small (“respirable”) crystalline silica particles, causes multiple diseases, including silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability and death. Respirable crystalline silica also causes lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease.
Around 2.3 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica on the job. Simply being near sand or other silica-containing materials is not hazardous. The hazard exists when specific activities create respirable dust that is released into the air.
Respirable crystalline silica – very small particles typically at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand found on beaches or playgrounds – is generated by high-energy operations like cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling and crushing stone, rock, concrete, brick, block and mortar; or when using industrial sand. Activities such as abrasive blasting with sand; sawing brick or concrete; sanding or drilling into concrete walls; grinding mortar; manufacturing brick, concrete blocks, or ceramic products; and cutting or crushing stone generates respirable dust.
The new rule requires that employers use engineering controls – such as ventilation and wet methods for cutting and sawing crystalline silica-contailing materials – to reduce workers’ exposure to silica dust. Once the full effect of the rule are realized, OSHA expects it to prevent 600 deaths a year from silica-related diseases – such as silicosis, lung cancer, other respiratory diseases and kidney disease – and to prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year.
About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces. The majority of these workers, about 2 million, are in the construction industry.

All information has been gathered from OSHA.gov.