Inhalation of very small (respirable) crystalline silica particles puts workers at risk for silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease. OSHA recently released a proposed rule to protect workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica.
What is Crystalline Silica?
Respirable crystalline silica – very small particles at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand you might encounter on beaches and playgrounds – is created during work operations involving stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, mortar, and industrial sand. Exposures to respirable crystalline silica can occur when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, and crushing these materials. These exposures are common in brick, concrete, and pottery manufacturing operations, as well as during operations using industrial sand products, such as in foundries, sand blasting, and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations in the oil and gas industry.
This is a proposal, not a final rule. OSHA encourages the public to participate in development of the rule by submitting comments and participating in public hearings. Your input will help OSHA develop a rule that ensures healthy working conditions for employees and is feasible for employers.
“Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential. Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. This proposal is expected to prevent thousands of deaths from silicosis – an incurable and progressive disease – as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases, and kidney disease. Workers affected by silica are fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers lost to entirely preventable illnesses. We’re looking forward to public comment on the proposal.”
OSHA estimates that the proposed rule will save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis per year, once the full effects of the rule are realized.
The proposed rule is the result of extensive review of scientific evidence relating to the health risks of exposure to respirable crystalline silica, analysis of the diverse industries where worker exposure to crystalline silica occurs, and robust outreach efforts to affected stakeholders. OSHA carefully considered current industry consensus standards on crystalline silica exposure, recommendations from small business representatives, and input from other interested parties and partner agencies in developing the proposed rule.
OSHA currently enforces 40-year-old permissible exposure limits (PELs) for crystalline silica in general industry, construction and shipyards that are outdated, inconsistent between industries, and do not adequately protect worker health. The proposed rule brings protections into the 21st century.
“The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is pleased to join with Dr. Michaels and our partners in labor and industry in OSHA’s announcement of the notice of proposed rulemaking on occupational exposure to crystalline silica. NIOSH has a long history of research and recommendations on preventing worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Ensuring the health and safety of all workers is an important part of ensuring a strong economy and future economic growth.”
Dr. John Howard Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Link to OSHA Press Release : https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=24615
OSHA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica was published in the Federal Register on September 12, 2013. The NPRM is available from the Federal Register in print (Document number: 2013-20997) or online at https://federalregister.gov/a/2013-20997