OSHA’s Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica Rule is in Force

September 25, 2017

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new silica rule went into effect on Saturday, September 23. 

The U.S. Department of Labor has stated, "During the first 30 days of enforcement, OSHA will carefully evaluate good faith efforts taken by employees in their attempts to meet the new construction silica standard." To read the complete memo, click here.

At this time ICPI remains opposed to the regulation as it has been implemented. The regulations are not technically feasible based on the tasks required to construct an interlocking concrete pavement. Additionally, ICPI believes OSHA has significantly underestimated the cost associated with implementing the regulation as currently stated. ICPI participates as a member of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition which has filed a lawsuit regarding this issue. The CISC is also working through government channels to oppose the regulations. To read the letter to the Department of Labor, click here.

ICPI has recommended that concrete cutting using vacuum dust reduction technologies needs to be included in Table 1 along with other dust abatement technologies. Not only does the cutting of concrete have the potential to generate respirable silica dust, but excavation, aggregate compaction, paver initial compaction, sweeping joint sand and compaction of joint sand, has the potential to raise silica dust to varying degrees which has the potential to exceed the new regulations limits.

ICPI believes that reducing the current limits does little to protect the health of workers. Instead ICPI would encourage efforts to increase education and awareness of the issues related to respirable silica and work to achieving a higher compliance level.

The following statement was approved by the Construction Committee in 2015 and has been included in the Concrete Paver Installer course.

Exposure to Respirable Silica

Workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica are at increased risk of developing serious adverse health effects including silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease. When concrete pavers are cut, equipment should be used that has the demonstrated capacity to reduce the amount of respirable silica exposure to levels below the OSHA specified limits. Examples include wet-cut table saws, dry-cut table saws with vacuum, power cutters with water attachment and power cutters with vacuum attachment.

Certain combinations of site conditions and materials can increase the exposure level. For this reason, ICPI recommends that an N95 dust mask (2 band), half face respirator or a respirator with an assigned protection factor of 10 or greater should also be used as part of a voluntary or mandatory safety program. These best practices will not guarantee the exposure level will be below OSHA specified limits. Contractors should use onsite monitoring to confirm that the respirable silica exposure levels are below OSHA specified limits.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published a guide, “Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction” that is intended to help small businesses understand and comply with OSHA’s Respirable Crystalline Silica standard for Construction. This guide describes the steps that employers are required to take to protect employees in construction from the hazards associated with exposure to respirable crystalline silica. This document is available at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3902.pdf.

Currently the Construction Committee has a task group working to get ICPI's Contractor Members guidance on the regulation compliance. This includes:

1) Develop a template silica exposure safety program,

This will be available to contractor members in the spring of 2018.

2) Reviewing resources available from other sources and making relevant materials available to members, and

The OSHA document "Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction" noted previously is a useful document to understand what is required by the regulation. However, due to the new regulations heavy reliance on respirator usage, additional information about the existing respirator regulations should be provided to contractor members. The OSHA document, "Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirator Protection Standard" is a recommended resource.

3) Contribute to a webinar to provide ICPI members with information related to the new respirable silica exposure regulation.

The following webinar is available to both ICPI Members and non-members.

Preventing Silica Exposure on the Jobsite

Date and Time: September 28, 2017

Presenter: Joel Guth - IQ Power Tools and Fred Adams - Fred Adams Paving Co., Inc.

CE Credit: 1 credit available upon the completion of an online quiz

Fee: Free for ICPI members and $70 for non-members. This webinar is part of the Contractor Webinar Series! ICPI Members can email aplana-hutt@icpi.org or call ICPI at (703) 657-6900 for the complimentary registration. A recording of the webinar will also be available.

Click here to register.