As expected, industry groups have been voicing their praise and criticism of the final silica ruling made by OSHA last week. Named the “Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica,” it is the first time that silica exposure regulation has been changed since 1971. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez commented that the ruling is “the fruition of decades of research and a lengthy stakeholder engagement process—including the consideration of thousands of public comments.”
The new ruling includes the following provisions required by employers to follow:
- Use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) and work practices to limit worker exposure;
- Provide respiratory protection when controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level;
- Limit access to high-exposure areas;
- Train workers; and
- Provide medical exams to highly exposed workers.
Durability and Design notes that “silica is one of the Earth’s most common minerals, found in stone, rock, brick, mortar, and block. Exposure to airborne silica dust occurs in operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, block, and other stone products and in operations using sand products, such as in glass manufacturing, foundries, and abrasive blasting.”
OSHA notes that 2.3 million men and women are exposure to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces.