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OSHA to start enforcing silica dust rule

On Sept. 23, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will begin enforcement of its new crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry.

The new rule is designed to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rule is comprised of two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime.

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.

Key provisions of the rule:

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.
  • Requires employers to: use engineering controls, such as water or ventilation, 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.
  • Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
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