OSHA Seeks Comments about Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard

Revisions to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) respirable crystalline silica standard could be coming in the future. The administration published a request for information (RFI) on August 15, 2019 seeking comments and exposure data, which could assist OSHA in assessing whether revisions are appropriate.

OSHA is requesting information on the effectiveness of engineering and work practice control methods not currently included for the tasks and equipment listed on Table 1 of the respirable crystalline silica standard for construction. It’s also seeking information about tasks and equipment involving exposure to respirable crystalline silica that are not currently listed on Table 1, along with information on the effectiveness of methods in limiting worker exposure to silica when performing those tasks.

Lastly, OSHA is interested in gathering information about whether there are additional circumstances where it would be appropriate to permit employers covered by the standard for general industry and maritime to comply with the silica standard for construction.

Comments are due on October 15, 2019.

Background

The silica rule is intended to limit workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica. It reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for workers to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift. It also requires employers to implement engineering controls, offer medical exams and develop control plans related to the issue.

Enforcement began for the construction industry, including glaziers, on September 23, 2017.

Silica is a key ingredient in the manufacture of glass. OSHA says the most severe exposures to crystalline silica result from abrasive blasting. It’s used in many industrial applications, such as etching or frosting glass. Additionally, crystalline silica exposure can occur in the maintenance, repair and replacement of the linings of refractory brick furnaces, such as those used to manufacture glass. Other exposures to silica dust occur in china and ceramic manufacturing and the tool and die, steel and foundry industries.

Long-term exposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease, according to OSHA.

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