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By: Joshua Clark
June 28, 2018
Hello VPPPA readers! My name is Joshua Clark, representing Enviro Safety Products, one of the oldest e-commerce sites online. Jamie Mitchell has been so kind as to allow me to write a guest post today about silica regulation, which we cover in our resource center here.
Last fall, OSHA rolled out new regulations to address a worsening crisis in the labor world: silica exposure. The regulations were activated on September 23rd with full enforcement beginning a month later, constituting the first major shift in silica policy since 1971. The next six months saw a flood of citations as the date for full enforcement (Saturday, June 23rd) loomed. There’s also been time for the National Association of Home Builders to initiate dialogue with OSHA to clarify ambiguous language in the rules, and two weeks ago a grace period was announced during which it can be assessed if an employer is making good faith efforts toward compliance.
Silica, as you probably know if you work in construction, is a particle 100 times smaller than sand that is present in many building materials, particularly those containing quartz. Millions of these particles are released into the air during grinding, sanding, drilling, and similar processes. Without respiratory protection, it is easily inhaled and sucked into the deepest crevices of the lungs, where it remains lodged for the rest of the worker’s life. Scar tissue forms around the particles and eventually progresses to the point of silicosis, which has ended many careers and lives over the years. Kidney and obstructive pulmonary disease have also been documented. With approximately 2.3 million workers affected every year, it has become one of the great invisible health crises in the country, and new regulations were long overdue. Progress will be gradual, but the prognosis looks good for a robust culture of prevention to develop, which is a long time coming for a workforce that has been suffering with this menace for generations.
Under OSHA’s regulations, a workplace must be tested if it’s a candidate for silica exposure above the action level (25 μg/m³). If the reading is between 25 and 50, the test will be done periodically every six months to keep a record. If PEL can’t be brought below 50, official signage must be posted at all entrances marking the space as off-limits to anyone without protection. OSHA will be back every three months to test the levels.
A comprehensive exposure control plan must be drafted by the employer, describing the tasks in the workplace that involve exposure. At least 30 days out of the year starting June 23, 2018, medical surveillance will be implemented on every worker who operates within the contaminated space. On June 23, 2020 this requirement expands to all employees exposed above the action level. It is also the employer’s responsibility to inform their workers of the conditions they are working under, and the steps being taken to limit the hazards.
At Enviro, we do our part by providing the best products on the market at highly competititve prices. The slight inconvenience of respiratory protection is totally worth it to avoid the devastation that silica can cause. You’ll find a curated selection of products that work great for silica protection here, and our general respiratory selection can be found here.