As many of you are aware the new OSHA silica standard in construction became effective September 23, 2017. OSHA is now enforcing this requirement and has issued some initial enforcement guidance on this (see link at end).
This new standard sets the action limit (trigger for action) at 25 µg/m3 of respirable (very small inhalable particles) and the eight-hour exposure limit at 50 µg/ m3. If you are performing any kind of construction work and that work under any foreseeable conditions will potentially reach 25 µg/ m3 limit (a rather low threshold), you have to comply with this law.
Assess exposure: Because OSHA is concerned with acute short-term (many are not aware of the acute silicosis hazard) and chronic or long terms issues with silica, the standard really pushes employers to perform air testing or to obtain data regarding your exposure (are you above or at the limit for PEL?). This is called exposure assessment. Some people refer to it as air sampling, but is more than just your sampling.
Create an exposure control plan: Any employer that has a foreseeable exposure to silica (i.e. core drilling, jack hammering, grinding, etc.) must have a written exposure plan for use on-site and train employees according to the defined plan.
Educate your staff: Perform an initial awareness level education for your employees. The first education should be structured with a knowledgeable individual explaining and discussing the process. This could be your safety director or others. After this, an educated person (who was in the initial program) can run basic toolbox talks on this topic.
Competent Person: There is emphasis on having/designating a competent person on your site, so it is prudent that you establish and train some competent persons.
It is important that you educate all employees on awareness of silica.
Visit our website to learn more about silica competent person educational programs.