OSHA proposes silica regulations

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is proposing a silica standard that could affect all concrete sawing and drilling companies.

The regulation would establish a lower exposure limit (PEL) for silica, proposes mandatory exposure for monitoring assessments, requires demarcation of each job as a regulated area and requires the presence of a competent person who is knowledgeable in silica-related hazards and is capable of re-mediating any exposures above the recommended PEL at each jobsite.

The proposed rules also mandate the availability of face respirators, Tryvek disposable clothing and HEPA filter vacuums to clean up and trap generated dust. If the proposal is finalized, signs must also be present at each jobsite to notify workers of danger, hazardous exposure or carcigenic material.

The overexposure of respirable crystalline silica can be deadly, sometimes causing a fatal lung disease. According to OSHA, more than one million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica, and each year more than 250 die from its related disease, silicosis. By possibly changing the silica standards, OSHA officials hope that the number of silicosis cases decreases.