OSHA Issues Final Crystalline Silica Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure Risks
The American Board of Industrial Hygiene® reminds workers and industry of the need to address workplace exposure risks to silica and other respirable hazards.
The new PEL is great news for the millions of workers in the U.S. who are exposed to silica dusts and Certified Industrial Hygienists are ready to help companies and government agencies comply with the new regulations.
In March, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule to further protect workers from respirable crystalline silica dust. The agency states it will reduce lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in workers by limiting their exposure.
According to OSHA, approximately 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries and hydraulic fracturing. OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The final rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.
The final rule is comprised of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime. Key provisions include:
- Reducing the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
- Requiring employers to use engineering controls to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan; offer medical exams to highly exposed workers; and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
- Providing medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and information about their lung health.
- Providing flexibility to help employers, especially small businesses, to protect workers from silica exposure.
“It was 45 years ago that that the previous exposure limit for crystalline silica was established,” said Susan Ripple, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “The new PEL is great news for the millions of workers in the U.S. who are exposed to silica dusts and Certified Industrial Hygienists are ready to help companies and government agencies comply with the new regulations. CIHs are uniquely qualified to help prevent worker exposure to this and other respirable hazards. Their extensive training and experience in air sampling, engineering controls, work environments, industrial processes, risk analysis and other core competencies of the CIH® program are instrumental for minimizing occupational exposure risks.”
To learn more about the American Board of Industrial Hygiene®, Certified Industrial Hygienist® credential or to locate a CIH® to perform industrial hygiene services, please visit www.ABIH.org, email abih@ABIH.org or call (517) 321-2638.
About the American Board of Industrial Hygiene ®
Since 1960, ABIH®, a not-for-profit corporation, has been the world’s largest organization for certifying professionals in the practice of industrial hygiene. ABIH® is the premier credentialing body responsible for ensuring high-quality certification including education, experience, examination, certification maintenance and ethics enforcement. Currently, more than 6800 people in 32 countries are certified to use the CIH® designation.
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