Tag Archive | "silica"

OSHA Releases Compliance Guide for Silica Standard

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OSHA Releases Compliance Guide for Silica Standard

Posted on 25 November 2016 by CRadmin2

osha1On November 14, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) released its Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction. This guide was produced for small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) with employees to help them comply with the new rule for crystalline silica exposure. Although this rule is seen as controversial by some organizations in the construction and related industries, it has been passed and no further changes are expected in the foreseeable future.

This new compliance guide provides the actual wording of the new rule, and then details how to assess employee exposure and methods that can be used to lower exposure to below the levels set in the standard, such as respiratory protection and housekeeping practices. In addition, the guide includes chapters on medical surveillance, hazard communication and recordkeeping.

OSHA is set to begin enforcing the final rule as it pertains to construction on June 23, 2017. Enforcement for general and maritime industries has been delayed one year to June 23, 2018, and a separate compliance guide for these industries is currently in development.

As a reminder, the new rule concerning silica is the federal standard, but states retain the authority to create separate standards as long they meet the minimum requirements. Businesses in many states have had to comply with state standards that meet the new federal rule for several years now. Always check with your state OSHA or other state authority regarding compliance for respirable silica.

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OSHA Finalizes New Silica Rule Amid Concern

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OSHA Finalizes New Silica Rule Amid Concern

Posted on 25 March 2016 by cradmin

On March 24, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized the revised federal rule for limiting the exposure of workers to crystalline silica, which is known to cause an array of medical conditions, including silicosis, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

OSHA believes the new rule will save more than 600 lives, prevent 900 cases of silicosis each year and provide a net annual savings of $7.7 billion. However, many individuals and organizations in the construction and building industries say putting more effort into enforcing the old rule would have gone further to protect the health of workers without increasing the cost of construction/renovation.

Provisions of the New Silica Standards

According to the OSHA Silica Web portal and the OSHA Fact Sheet Workers’ Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica: Final Rule Overview, the new rule is comprised of two separate standards: one for the construction industry and one for maritime and general industry. The four key provisions:

  1. The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for crystalline silica has been reduced from 250 micrograms per cubic meter to 50 micrograms per cubic meter in an eight-hour period.
  1. Employers are required to limit worker exposure to silica through engineering controls, personal protective equipment (PPE) and controlled access to areas with high concentrations. In addition, employers must develop a written exposure-control program, and train employees on the hazards of silica and how to limit exposure.
  1. Employers are required to monitor the health of workers with high exposure potential by providing regular medical examinations and information on lung health.
  1. The rule has some flexibility for OSHA to help employers, especially small businesses, comply with the rule and protect workers from silica exposure.

The new rule goes into effect on June 23 of this year (2016), but staggered schedules have been set with various industries to comply with the requirements.

  • Construction: One year – June 23, 2017
  • Maritime and General Industry: Two years – June 23, 2018
  • Hydraulic fracturing (fracking): Five years for engineering controls, two years for all other provisions

OSHA Defends New Rule

OSHA defends the new federal rule for silica exposure limits by stating that approximately 2.3 million workers in the United States are exposed to crystalline silica on the job and that the current PEL is more than 40 years old. According to OSHA, the old limit is based on research from the 1960s, and new evidence has emerged since that time to indicate the old limit does not adequately protect workers. In addition, the administration claims the technology to comply with the rule is readily available and affordable.

“We’ve known for over 40 years that it needed to be strengthened, and it has taken 40 years to strengthen it,” said Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. “Many people who are going to work right now and breathing unacceptable levels of silica dust are in for a brighter future. The science says we need to be at 50, so that’s what the final rule will say.”

“Silica is a killer, and employers need to take the necessary steps so that they can reduce exposure,” continued Perez. “And the good news is that those necessary steps are not going to break the bank. It’s real simple stuff. Get a vacuum. Get water. Those are the key elements of pretty simple compliance.”

Industries Respond

Several industry groups have opposed the new silica ruling since it was first proposed back in 2013, and the largest opponent is a partnership of 25 trade associations called the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC), which includes the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the AGC, has expressed his dismay over the new rule speaking on behalf of his entire organization. “Instead of crafting new and innovative ways to get more firms to comply with the current silica standard, which we know would save even more workers each year, administration officials appear to have instead opted to set a new standard that is well beyond the capabilities of current air filtration and dust removal technologies,” stated Sandherr. “Wishing firms could meet this new but unattainable standard will undoubtedly deliver many positive headlines for the administration, but it will be all but impossible for most construction firms to comply with this new rule.”

“We will continue our exhaustive review of this new regulation, consult with our members and decide on a future course of action that will best serve the health and safety of millions of construction workers across the country,” Sandherr concluded.

The NAHB held back its resentment but echoed the sentiments of the AGC. “NAHB has long advocated the importance of the rule being both technologically and economically feasible,” said Ed Brady, chair of the NAHB. “While we’re still reviewing the final rule, we’re concerned that it may not adequately address these issues and take into consideration real-world application.”

Jeff Buczkiewicz, president of the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA), is also concerned about the feasibility of the new OSHA rule. “At first glance, we have observed that a number of provisions that concerned us in the proposed rule have been left in the final rule. This makes us continue to question the final rule’s technological and economic feasibility for the construction industry,” said Buczkiewicz. “In addition, OSHA has added several new provisions not in the proposed rule that we have not had a chance to thoroughly review and consider the impacts. Once we complete our review, we will be able to be more specific about what was released today.”

The exception to the negative response to the new rule among the industry comes from the trade unions. The North America Building Trades Union (NABTU) issued the following response: “North America’s Building Trades Union is pleased OSHA has issued the final silica standard. Put simply, the OSHA silica standard will protect construction workers from getting sick or dying due to silica dust exposure.”

The AFL-CIO is also onboard with the new rule. “We applaud the Obama administration for issuing these lifesaving measures and commend Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels for their tremendous leadership and dedication to bring the silica rules to completion,” read the official AFL-CIO statement. “The labor movement has fought for these standards for decades. We will continue to fight to defend these rules from the certain industry attacks that will come so that workers are finally protected from this deadly dust.”

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Respiratory Protection Part 2: Countertop Fabrication and Silica Dust Exposure

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Respiratory Protection Part 2: Countertop Fabrication and Silica Dust Exposure

Posted on 19 August 2015 by cradmin

silica-dust Last month, we took a look at general respiratory protection in the countertop fabrication industry, and this month, we expand on that topic by exploring silica dust exposure and silicosis. Silica dust is the number one airborne contaminant in countertop fabrication shops, and it may exist anywhere stone, quartz surfacing or concrete slabs are being cut.

Silica has recently become a hot topic among countertop fabricators since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a proposal to decrease the allowable limits for silica exposure. Although this proposed rule change has caused quite a stir in the industry and very few fabricators agree with it, the proposal has already had an impact by raising awareness of the issue.

Silicosis Cases Decline but Still Common

The problem with excessive exposure to silica dust is that it can accumulate in the lungs and cause a potentially fatal chronic disease known as silicosis. Although cases of silicosis have fallen and the mortality rate from the disease has decreased over the past 50 years, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that approximately 100 people die in the U.S. every year from complications associated with the disease, and from 2011 to 2013, 12 of those people were under 45 years of age.

In addition, 2015 marks the first time a countertop fabricator in the U.S. has been diagnosed with silicosis, joining the ranks of Italy, Spain and Israel. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the man was exposed to silica dust from quartz surfacing for 10 years. Quartz countertops are 70 to 90 percent crystalline silica, and with the material’s surge in popularity, excessive exposure must be addressed in fabrication shops. However, it is important to note that silica is also present in nearly all types of natural stone, including granite and soapstone, and concrete.

Protecting Employees and Ourselves

OSHA3768aCountertop fabricators can take several steps to control silica levels in their shops and limit exposure to workers. The first step in the process is monitor the air in order to determine just how much silica dust is present. This will not only help protect the health of anyone present but will also help you stay in compliance with federal and state regulations. If levels above what is permissible are found, employers are mandated to take corrective action to reduce worker exposure.

The methods that can be used to reduce silica exposure fall into three categories: engineering controls, work practices and personal protective equipment (PPE). Each of these categories should be considered part of a hierarchy. If engineering controls do not sufficiently lower silica levels, changes in work practices must be attempted, and if levels are still too high, employees in the area must be fit for and provided with appropriate PPE.

Engineering Controls

  • Employ water-spraying systems to keep dust from becoming airborne.
  • Use remote-controlled saws and other tools to keep people out of the exposure zones.
  • Modify handheld grinders to deliver water to the point of contact.
  • Replace dry grinders with wet-edge routers.
  • Use tools under a shroud and vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Install local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems.
  • Use combinations of the above.

Work Practices

  • When cleaning, use HEPA vacuums or wet sweepers rather than dry sweepers or compressed air.
  • Replace filters frequently.
  • Increase flow on water systems.
  • Wet slabs before fabricating.

When cutting, grinding and polishing countertops onsite, control silica dust exposure by performing as much work as possible under controlled shop conditions, and use LEV systems when wet methods are impractical. In addition, try to use tools equipped with dust shrouds, and clean up all dust with a HEPA-filtered vacuum as soon as possible.

Respiratory Protection

hydfrac_hazalert_12When engineering controls and work practices have failed to lower silica dust levels, employers are required to provide respirator protection to employees, but this means much more than simply making PPE available. Employers are required to create a respiratory protection program that meets the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134). Such programs include the following requirements:

  • hydfrac_hazalert_11Selecting the proper respirators
  • Fit-testing employees for respirators
  • Completing medical evaluations for all employees required to wear respirators
  • Training employees how to properly use respirators
  • Observing that employees are using and maintaining respirators properly

When respirators are required to be worn in areas with high levels of silica dust, at minimum, the PPE must be a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator. When silica levels are higher than 10 times the limit, half-face respirators may not be used. Instead, you must use respirators that offer more protection, such as full-face respirators, which are effective in environments that are 50 times higher than the current federal exposure level. Another option is to purchase powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), which are more comfortable and easier on the body than pressure-demand respirators are.

For Further Information

Further information on silica dust exposure and silicosis can be found in a variety of ways. A great deal of current information is available online, and you may also tap into other resources, including state and federal OSHA offices, which provide free consultation services for small-to-mid-sized businesses (SMBs). You can also contact trade organization, such as the Marble Institute of America (MIA), which has been recognized by OSHA for making comprehensive training resources available.

A few of the helpful materials you can access online are as follows:

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Silicosis: Incurable, but Preventable

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Silicosis: Incurable, but Preventable

Posted on 17 April 2015 by cradmin

With all of the attention the countertop industry continues to receive regarding silica exposure and the impending regulation changes,  we thought sharing this video produced by the Marble Institute of America (MIA) with the help of DuPont and Water Treatment Solutions, would be a good idea. “Silicosis: Incurable, but Preventable” contains excellent information on preventing this terrible ailment. However, it also recognizes that no single video can cover every given situation and that each particular circumstance should be assessed and precautions taken according to the variables present, with erring on the side of caution being the wisest path. We recognize that the countertop industry has done an excellent job of addressing this disease largely through the information sharing and efforts of organizations such as the MIA and we here at CountertopResource.com would like to recognize them for their efforts. However, we feel for those who have suffered needlessly through this terrible and preventable ailment, and urge you all to be always mindful in all situations, whatever your capacity in a facility or operation in which there is the risk of silicosis, and put safety at the forefront.

A Spanish version of the Silicosis video can be found here.

You might also be interested in this video on the hazards of silica exposure.

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Regulating the Countertop Industry: Make Your Voice Heard

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Regulating the Countertop Industry: Make Your Voice Heard

Posted on 27 March 2014 by CRadmin2

The proposed change in the silica dust exposure limits by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that was announced August 23, 2013 has been big news in the countertop fabrication industry, but it is not be too late to provide input. The open debate began on March 25 and is slated to run until April 1, so there is still time to have your voice heard.

Although the executive vice president of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) has stated that MIA considers itself partners with OSHA and strongly believes that safety in the workplace is of utmost importance, the organization is fighting against the proposed rule change. The MIA has also put together a comprehensive resource detailing how fabricators can educate themselves about the dangers of silica, how to prevent and control worker exposure, how to prepare for the rule change and how to prepare for a visit from OSHA.

The MIA has stressed that the ultimate success of this effort lies on the ability of those in the natural-stone industries to speak with a unified voice, and it appears that a new, yet possibly controversial, avenue to react to the change has just been presented by the National Institute of Occupational Safety (NIOSH) through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

On March 18, an article detailing the hazards of silica specifically from engineered stone countertops was published by NIOSH on the CDC website. This was the same date that hearings on the proposed silica rule change opened. The article details how silica exposure may lead to the incurable disease silicosis, but it has also given fabricators fuel for the debate and presented an invitation to help the them and OSHA learn more about how silica exposure is currently being handled.

While the seriousness of silicosis cannot be argued, the article only cites studies conducted in Spain and Israel, and the NIOSH admits, “No reported cases of silicosis in the U.S. have been linked to quartz surfacing materials.” However, several recent OSHA inspections have documented overexposures from both natural stone and engineered stone fabrication facilities. It is these overexposure reports that have led the MIA to call upon all fabricators to ensure that they comply with the standards according to the law. If fabricators can show that they are taking the proper precautions, the administration will be more apt to delay or halt the proposed change.

In addition, the NIOSH has issued a statement admitting that very little is known about how the quartz countertop segment of the industry is dealing with the hazard of silica exposure. It is calling for quartz fabricators to voluntarily submit a request for a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) so that the hazard can be more closely studied in a state-of-the-art fabrication facility.

At present, it is unknown whether any fabricators have stepped up to the task, but if none have so far, it is quite understandable why they haven’t. No one wants to invite a wolf inside his or her home, but this may be an opportunity for the quartz countertop industry to show that adequate measures are already in place and are very effective. This could show the government that the countertop industry can regulate itself and protect its workers without the need for further or stricter regulations.

While many would be inclined to believe that inviting the NIOSH into their facilities is an invitation for trouble, the possibility does exist that this may benefit the company and the industry as a whole. We are interested to hear the opinions of quartz fabricators about volunteering for HHEs and the possible benefits and drawbacks of voluntarily submitting to an evaluation. For further information, fabricators may visit the HHE program Web page.

In addition, fabricators should be aware that there is still time to enter public opinions on the matter and that post-hearing comments may be made up to 45 days after the public hearings have transpired. For more information on how to voice your opinion on the matter, visit the OSHA Web page on silica and click on the tab labeled Public Participation. Also, feel free to comment on this blog page or email us at info@countertopresource.com to provide us with feedback on this important issue.

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MIA: ‘OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule a Serious Concern for Construction Industry’

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MIA: ‘OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule a Serious Concern for Construction Industry’

Posted on 17 September 2013 by cradmin

In response to a notice by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that it intends to reduce the current silica dust exposure rate by 50 percent, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) is urging OSHA to maintain current levels. According to a release from the MIA, the current silica levels “are appropriate if adhered to.”

“Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show a greater than 90 percent reduction in the silicosis mortality rate from 1968 to 2010,” stated the MIA release. “It is doubtful that a further reduction of the allowable exposure limits will impact those numbers.”

The MIA statement goes on to say that OSHA should focus more on compliance with current standards through urging wet cutting and stone industry education.

“The natural stone industry advocates the use of proper equipment, training, vigilance and continual monitoring to minimize the risk of silicosis,” states the release. “The MIA has produced videos, handouts, and training guidelines on awareness and prevention and is providing many of those resources free-of-charge to stone companies online at www.marble-institute.com/silica.”

“We consider ourselves partners with OSHA in this effort, and believe strongly that safety is paramount,” said James Hieb, MIA Executive Vice President. “Independent studies have estimated costs for construction industry compliance will well exceed $1 billion per year. Don’t hamper economic growth for companies who are in compliance at the current levels.”

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The Hazards of Silica Exposure in the Countertop Fabrication Industry

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The Hazards of Silica Exposure in the Countertop Fabrication Industry

Posted on 04 September 2013 by cradmin

With the recent proposed silica standard update from OSHA, new light is being shined on an old problem – silica exposure. It is important that anyone working with natural stone, concrete or quartz surfacing/engineered stone understands the risks of silica exposure and silicosis.

This video, put out by the U.S. Department of Labor, www.dol.gov, addresses just how dangerous silica exposure can be.

While most countertop fabrication companies in the United States understand the risks and take the necessary precautions to limit exposure, such as wet cutting, every fabrication company should be.

While this video is not exclusively for those in the stone countertop segment of the industry, anyone who is should probably view it. This is a matter that we hope you all take seriously.

If you have other videos you think would be of benefit to the industry, please drop us a line at info@countertopresource.com and let us know.

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OSHA Announces Proposed Decrease in Allowable Silica Exposure for Countertop Fabricators

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OSHA Announces Proposed Decrease in Allowable Silica Exposure for Countertop Fabricators

Posted on 03 September 2013 by cradmin

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a proposed rule it says is “aimed at curbing lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers.” The proposal seeks to lower worker exposure to crystalline silica, which kills hundreds of workers and sickens thousands more each year. After publication of the proposal, the public will have 90 days to submit written comments, followed by public hearings.

Exposure to airborne silica dust occurs in operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, block and stone products and in operations using sand products, such as in glass manufacturing, foundries and sand blasting. The current permissible exposure limit (PEL) for countertop fabrication facilities is 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air in an 8-hour (one shift) time-weighted average. PELs for other industries range from 100 to 250 micrograms. Under the new proposal, all industries will have their PEL dropped to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air for an 8-hour time-weighted average. That is a 50 percent decrease in the PEL for those fabricating granite, quartz and other silica containing stones for countertop usage.

The proposed rule also includes provisions for measuring how much silica workers are exposed to, limiting workers’ access to areas where silica exposures are high, using effective methods for reducing exposures, providing medical exams to workers with high silica exposures and training for workers about silica-related hazards and how to limit exposure. These provisions are similar to industry consensus standards that many responsible employers have been using for years, and the technology to better protect workers is already widely available.

“Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Every year, 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. We’re looking forward to public comment on the proposal.”

Once the full effects of the rule are realized, OSHA estimates that the proposed rule would result in saving nearly 700 lives per year and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis annually.

The proposal is based on extensive review of scientific and technical evidence, consideration of current industry consensus standards and outreach by OSHA to stakeholders, including public stakeholder meetings, conferences and meetings with employer and employee organizations.

“The proposed rule uses common sense measures that will protect workers’ lives and lungs-like keeping the material wet so dust doesn’t become airborne,” added Michaels. “It is designed to give employers flexibility in selecting ways to meet the standard.”

The agency currently enforces 40-year-old PELs for crystalline silica in general industry, construction and shipyards that are inconsistent between industries, which OSHA says are “outdated and do not adequately protect worker health.” The release issued August 23 regarding the new proposal states that “the proposed rule brings protections into the 21st century.”

The proposed rule includes the new exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica and details widely used methods for controlling worker exposure, conducting medical surveillance, training workers about silica-related hazards and recordkeeping measures.

OSHA rulemaking relies on input from the public and the agency will conduct extensive engagement to garner feedback from the public through both written and oral comments. OSHA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register, followed by public hearings. Once public hearings conclude, members of the public who filed a notice of intention to appear can then submit additional post-hearing comments. Additional information on the proposed rule, including a video; procedures for submitting comments and the public hearings can be found at www.osha.gov/silica. OSHA’s official Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, can be found www.osha.gov/silica/nprm.pdf. This more than 750-page document includes instructions on how to submit public comment as well as estimated costs that affected companies would incur.

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