Implications of OSHA Rule for Manufacturers

October 8, 2018

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has implemented a new respirable silica standard which applies to the general industry, including manufacturing. The Technical Director of the Risk Control Industrial Hygiene Specialist Group for Travelers explains how the new standard will affect manufacturers and their workplaces.

The Dangers of Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust

Crystalline silica is commonly found in materials such as sand, stone and concrete. When these materials are broken, small particles of silica are released into the air and may be breathed in, causing damage to the lungs. Long-term exposure to silica dust can lead to silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other serious diseases and respiratory disorders, according to OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). OSHA reports that approximately 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica each year.

Work-Related Activities that May Expose Workers to Silica Dust

Workers in the construction industry are at high risk of exposure because they often deal with materials containing silica. However, silica standards now not only apply to the construction industry, but also to the general industry. Therefore, all employers must protect workers from the carcinogen. Some activities that put workers at risk of toxic exposure include:

  • Abrasive blasting operations
  • Cement-cutting
  • Concrete demolition
  • Excavation
  • Granite cutting
  • Masonry work
  • Mining
  • Road construction
  • Sandblasting
  • Tunneling

Employer Requirements Under the New Standard

The compliance deadline for employers in the general industry was June 23, 2018. Under the new standard, employers must assess their workplaces for employee exposure and determine whether it surpasses the permissible exposure limit of 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air. This amount is averaged over an eight-hour work day. If a worker is exposed to at least 25 micrograms, the “action level” is triggered, requiring the employer to take certain measures to reduce exposure and protect employees.

If the action level is triggered, employers must implement an action plan, which typically includes engineering and administrative controls such as exhaust ventilation and dust controls. If these measures are inadequate, workers must be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators. Employers may also limit access to hazardous areas with warning signs.

Other employer requirements under the silica standard include:

  • Having housekeeping measures in place to reduce airborne silica dust
  • Training workers on how to handle silica and informing them of the dangers of exposure
  • Keeping records of instances of employee exposure and the results of their medical exams
  • Providing workers with an initial baseline examination and follow up examinations every three years

The technical director advises all employers, including those in the manufacturing industry, to implement controls to reduce or eliminate worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust. Employers may also take advantage of OSHA’s assistance programs, such as the On-Site Consultation Program. OSHA estimates that this standard will prevent approximately 1,600 silicosis cases and save 700 lives each year.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers in the Manufacturing Industry Obtain Compensation for Silica-Related Illnesses

If you were exposed to silica in the workplace, contact a skilled Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Call us at 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form for a free consultation.

We represent injured workers in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery CountyPhiladelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum LynneDarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssingtonFolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztownLansdowneMediaMerion StationMortonNarberthNorristownNorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect ParkQuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper DarbyWest Chester, and Wynnewood.