More than 2 million construction workers and nearly 300,000 industry workers in the United States are exposed to Silica Dust on the job. Workers that inhale crystalline silica are at increased risk of developing silica-related diseases that can be debilitating or even fatal. Protective steps must be taken to prevent, reduce and measure exposure levels to silica dust to ensure the safety of all workers.
A written exposure control plan should be part of the workplace safety and health program for any organization that has employees that could potentially be exposed to silica dust.
Crystalline Silica is a common mineral found in the ground. When products or materials are harvested, manufactured or produced using natural elements from the Earth, these materials may then contain silica.
Common work materials found on job sites that may contain crystalline silica include sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, mortar and block. Silica is also found in products like glass, pottery and ceramics.
OSHA Construction Standard 1926 Subpart Z Section 1153 and OSHA General Industry Standard 1910 Subpart Z Section 1053 both cover Respirable Crystalline Silica
Respirable crystalline silica dust is created during normal construction, industry and manufacturing activities when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling or crushing any material that has silica like concrete, brick and stone. These super-fine silica particles are released into the air and workers are in danger of inhaling these silica dust and developing serious health conditions as a result.
Typical construction, manufacturing and processing activities that release silica dust into the air include:
OSHA Construction Standard 1926.1153(d)(1) and OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.1053(c) Permissible exposure limit (PEL). The employer shall ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of respirable crystalline silica in excess of 50 μg/m3, calculated as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA).
Workers who inhale silica dust particles are at an increased risk of developing certain illnesses including:
OSHA Construction Standard 1926.1153(d)(3)(i) and OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.1053(f)(1) Engineering and work practice controls. The employer shall use engineering and work practice controls to reduce and maintain employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica to or below the PEL, unless the employer can demonstrate that such controls are not feasible. Wherever such feasible engineering and work practice controls are not sufficient to reduce employee exposure to or below the PEL, the employer shall nonetheless use them to reduce employee exposure to the lowest feasible level and shall supplement them with the use of respiratory protection.
A dust mask is not enough! Respiratory protection is only permitted when other dust control measures are not sufficient.
All employers who have workers that are exposed to silica dust must establish the following and affected employees must be aware of and assist in effectively implementing these requirements.
To limit exposure to harmful silica dust, these control methods can provide a safer work environment:
If Silica Dust is a hazard on the job, it is important that all team members that are exposed to silica dust receive training on how they can protect themselves against exposure.
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