Silica Guide From SAIF Corporation
Overview and Applicability
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued new rules to protect workers from occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The original permissible exposure limit (PEL) used by OSHA to protect workers was set in 1971. Studies have shown that the previous PEL was not protective enough to prevent significant risk of developing silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease. In addition, new uses for silica, such as stone or artificial counter top fabrication and hydraulic fracturing, have emerged providing new exposure scenarios to address.
Oregon OSHA combined the 2016 federal construction and general industry (including maritime) silica rules into one set of rules applicable to these industries. The rules not only reduce the exposure limit, they take a comprehensive approach to protecting workers by creating an action level and requiring exposure assessments, engineering and other controls, a written exposure control plan, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, regulated/restricted access areas, education and training, and recordkeeping.
SAIF developed this guide to provide employers with knowledge of the health effects and protective measures for controlling exposures to respirable crystalline silica. A step-by-step approach is provided for businesses to use in order to determine applicability of the rules to their organizations and implement efforts to protect worker safety and health.
Oregon OSHA silica rules (437-002-1053 through 437-002-1065) are outlined in this guide. Resources at the end of the guide include a respirable crystalline silica exposure decision-making process map, appendices that describe requirements based on exposure levels, and an example written silica exposure control plan.
Exemptions from the new respirable crystalline silica rules include:
- Agricultural operations
- Exposures resulting from processing absorptive clays (such as kitty litter). This exclusion is based on the fact that this type of silica is typically occluded (blocked with ions) or coated and does not pose the same level of health risks as crystalline silica.
- Operations where objective data demonstrate employee exposures will remain below the 25 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) as an eight hour time-weighted average (TWA) under any foreseeable conditions.