OSHA’s New Silica Ruling Takes Effect September 23


Viewpoint construction software solutions are designed to keep all stakeholders apprised of the inner workings of a project, no matter where in the world he or she may be or what stage a project is in.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new respirable crystalline silica standards go into effect in three days on September 23, 2017. Viewpoint software allows for detailed and trackable safety observations, and will be vital to ensuring compliance with the new rule.

In an effort to curb illnesses resulting from working with silica, including lung cancer, silicosis, chronic pulmonary disease, and kidney disease, OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standards will limit workers’ exposure to the material. Broken into two standards, construction and general industry, OSHA’s ruling is expected to affect two million construction workers (in drilling, cutting, crushing, and grinding concrete and stone) and 300,000 general industry employees (in brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing).

Industries have had more than a year to comply with the new silica standards. Construction is the first industry in which the silica rule will be fully in effect, starting Saturday, September 23, with general industry and hydraulic fracturing to follow on June 23, 2018.

With more than 2.3 million workers exposed to crystalline silica on the job, it’s estimated that OSHA’s new ruling could save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 cases of silicosis annually.

The new standard reduces exposure allowance for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air within an eight-hour shift. It was previously at 250 micrograms. The dust particles are 100 times smaller than individual sand granules.

While there are many aspects to the new ruling, compliance can be achieved step-by-step and with accurate documentation.

Compliance checklist

In addition to limiting particles per area, the new OSHA silica standards require employers to:

  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan.
  • Designate someone to be in control of and implement the plan.
  • Adjust housekeeping to maximize control of the dust, such as wet cleanup.
  • Offer medical exams, including chest X-rays and lung function tests, at least every three years for workers who are required to wear a respirator for 30 or more days each year.
  • Ensure proper training to all employees on how to limit exposure to silica.
  • Keep detailed records of workers’ exposure to silica and medical exam results and treatments.

Engineering controls and work practices are the primary ways to limit exposure. Your safety managers should be aware of what changes need to be deployed to meet the compliance. This could include, but is not limited to:

  • Use of an air monitoring system to track dust particle output.
  • Wet machining, grinding/sanding, cutting, and drilling processes. The water use suppresses and collects the silica particles.
  • Employ dust collection systems when wet cutting isn’t available.
  • Zero tolerance for eating, drinking, or smoking in silica-present areas.
  • As an employer, provide personal protection equipment for workers, which may include protective clothing, eyewear, and respiratory protection, if applicable.
  • Use of HEPA vacuum filters and wet cleanup methods.
  • Proper cleanup areas for workers, including a shower.
  • Dedicated parking away from a contaminant area.

OSHA will be cracking down hard on compliance violators. Those who do not comply with the 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air standard will be subject to a $12,675 fine per violation, another $12,675 per day for failure-to-abate, and $126,749 for a repeated or willful violation.

To learn more about how Viewpoint construction software can help with every stage of your construction projects, reach out directly or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.