Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals. The most common silica form is quartz, but it is also present in cristobalite and tridymite. All three silica forms can break down into respirable particles. Exposure can occur during different construction or manufacturing activities where workers chip, cut, drill, or grind objects that contain crystalline silica.
Silica exposure remains a serious threat to nearly 2 million U.S. workers, including more than 100,000 workers in high-risk jobs such as abrasive blasting, foundry work, stone cutting, rock drilling, quarry work, and tunneling. Crystalline silica is a known lung carcinogen, and breathing this dust can cause silicosis and other potentially fatal health issues. Silicosis is caused by respirable silica dust entering the lungs and creating scar tissue, reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen, and there is no cure.
OSHA requires exposed workers receive hazard communication training and participate in a respirator program. A Crystalline Silica National Emphasis Program also exists to help identify, reduce, and eliminate health hazards. OSHA’s new silica regulations reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica. Each new rule is scheduled to take effect as follows:
- Construction – June 23, 2017
- General Industry – June 23, 2018
- Hydraulic Fracturing – June 23, 2018 (Engineering Controls Portion – June 23, 2021).
A few things you can do to protect against crystalline silica exposure include:
- Replace crystalline silica materials with safer substitutes, whenever possible.
- Use protective equipment or other protective measures to reduce exposures below the PEL.
- Use all available work practices to control dust exposures.
- Wear disposable or washable work clothes, and shower if facilities are available.
- Participate in training, exposure monitoring, and health screening programs to monitor exposure effects.
- Be aware of potential crystalline silica exposures in your workplace, and know how to protect yourself.
Remember: If it’s silica, it’s not just dust.
RETTEW’s safety professionals are up to date on OSHA’s silica regulations and are ready to assist with the interpretation and implementation of these new measures on your sites and in your facilities. OSHA’s Dale Glacken will be presenting on this topic as a part of ASSE Central PA’s April 12, 2017 meeting at RETTEW’s Training Center in Mechanicsburg, PA. RETTEW safety professionals Paul Becker and Kristen Morgret, CSP will provide field case studies and answer questions. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged; please click here for more information. Unable to make the presentation? Our Safety Consulting group will gladly perform an evaluation and assess your readiness level. Please contact , (484) 240-4518, for your assessment.
Safety training and consulting are only some of RETTEW’s more than 450 services. Our safety team works hand in hand with engineers, scientists, project managers, and other technical experts at sites such as manufacturing facilities, drill pads, and commercial construction. We are well-respected in many industries and are known for ensuring all workers and equipment remain safe. This, in turn, keeps your most valuable asset—your employees—safe. And that keeps your projects on track and your bottom line thriving.
- Bridges and structures
- Community planning
- Construction services
- Cultural resources
- Facility design
- Highways and roadways
- Process engineering
- Project financing
- Site planning and design
- Subsurface utility engineering
- Utility design
- Water source development