New OSHA Requirements Regarding Silica Dust
Dust clouds created while mixing concrete, jackhammering or cutting concrete sidewalks, tuckpointing, and sawing masonry blocks will soon be a thing of the past. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will begin enforcing new regulations concerning worker’s exposure to silica dust on September 23, 2017. Silica dust is commonly produced when working with concrete, brick mortar, tiles, cement board, and many other common building materials. Long term exposure to silica dust can lead to the development of lung cancer, silicosis, and other permanent conditions with long lasting consequences. Because silica dust is so prevalent, the new regulations will impact many different industries including many facets of construction. Complying with these regulations will potentially impact, property owners, engineers, contractors, and other individuals, in many ways including the cost of construction work.
While there are many requirements detailed in the regulations, contractors will have to offer medical examinations to high exposure workers, implement engineering controls for silica dust, and develop procedures to limit the exposure to silica dust that workers experience. Depending on the circumstances and activity, engineering controls can include a vacuum system with a 99% efficiency for certain cases or water methods of controlling dust. Additionally, a HEPA vacuum may be required in certain cases and a personal respiratory protection device must be supplied to workers.
Building owners, project managers, and other individuals involved with construction need to be aware of the impacts that these new requirements can have on projects. Additionally, contractors may require cooperation from building owners and managers to be able to adhere to the new requirements.
More information regarding the requirements can be found at: https://www.osha.gov/silica/