Silica Safety

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Silica Safety Guide in Spanish

What is Crystalline Silica? 
Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring mineral commonly found in sand, rock, concrete, glass, marble, brick, mortar, porcelain, ceramic, artificial rock, and many other products.  Crystalline silica exits in three main forms: quartz (most common), crystobalite, and tridymite.  
Inhalation of crystalline silica in the respirable size range (particle diameter of less than 10 microns) can cause a variety of adverse health effects.  The most common health condition associated with respirable crystalline silica exposure is silicosis, and incurable and sometimes fatal lung disease.  Silicosis results in scarring of the lung tissue and decreased lung function.  Silica exposure may also increase the risk of lung cancer and kidney disease.
 
Prevention
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has made several recommendations to minimize the workers’ exposure to crystalline silica. In order to limit exposure to silica and prevent silicosis, employers and workers should:
• Plan ahead to control dust at a work site.
• Eliminate the use of abrasive blasting materials that contain more than 1% crystalline silica.
• Use dust control methods such as blast cabinets, approved vacuum systems, and wet methods.
• Maintain dust control systems to make sure they are working properly.
• Wear disposable or washable protective clothing.
• If possible, shower and change clothes before leaving the worksite.
• Conduct regular air monitoring to ensure that control systems are working.
• Use respirators approved for protection against crystalline silica-containing dust when levels cannot be kept below the PEL. Follow the OSHA respiratory protection program requirements.
• Post warning signs around areas contaminated with silica dust.
• Provide workers with training materials about health effects of silica exposure and the protective equipment that is available to prevent exposure.
• Provide medical exams for all workers who may be exposed to respirable crystalline silica.
• Avoid eating, drinking or smoking in areas where silica dust is present.
• Report all cases of silicosis to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
• Follow the applicable OSHA silica standard(s) as discussed below
 
New OSHA Crystalline Silica Standards 
On March 25, 2016 OSHA issued a new final rule on exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica which includes two separate standards: one for the Construction Industry and one for General Industry and Maritime operations.  The final rule became effective on June 23, 2016.  Employers will have up to one year in Construction and up to two years in General Industry/Maritime to come into full compliance with the new standard, in accordance with a schedule listed in the final rule.  
OSHA estimates that about 2.3 million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica.  Exposures to silica dust occur in construction operations such as cutting, sawing, drilling, grinding, mixing and crushing of concrete, brick, block, rock, and stone products.  Silica exposures also occur in a variety of manufacturing processes that use or produce rock, cement, marble, stone, block, and sand products.  These include foundries, sandblasting operations, hydraulic fracturing, and the manufacture of tile, marble products, brick or concrete products, porcelain, pottery, and glass.  

|The new rule reduces the limit for silica dust exposure in the workplace.  The respirable crystalline silica Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for both the Construction and General Industry/Maritime standards has been set at 50 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) of air.  An Action Level (AL) has been set at 25 µg/m3.   The standard requires employers to implement certain engineering, work practice, and/or personal protective equipment (PPE) controls to reduce silica exposures. The required controls are dependent on the level of exposure and employee work activity.  

Additional information on the silica standard including the entire final rule, summary sheets, Questions & Answers, and the implementation schedule can be found at OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov/silica/index.html.  The WCF Safety and Health Department is also available to provide assistance in understanding the new OSHA crystalline silica requirements to help protect your employees.  For further assistance please contact the WCF Safety and Health Department at 385 351 8103 or online at https://www.wcf.com/ask-safety-consultant.
 

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