Health effects from silica exposure includes:
- Silicosis, a disabling, non-reversible and sometimes fatal lung disease;
- Lung cancer;
- Kidney disease, including nephritis and end-stage renal disease; and
- Other non-malignant respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Responsible employers have been protecting workers from harmful exposure to respirable crystalline silica for years, using widely available equipment that controls dust with water or a vacuum system and ensuring workers are wearing the proper respiratory protection.
OSHA has issued a final rule to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rule is comprised of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime.
According to OSHA 29 CFR 1926.1153, regardless of which exposure control method is used, all construction employers covered by the standard are required to:
- Establish and implement a written exposure control plan
- ID tasks that involve exposure
- Methods used to protect workers
- Restricting access to high exposure work areas
- Implement a written exposure control plan by a competent person
- Use alternate means for housekeeping practices where silica exposure can occur
- If workers are required to wear a respirator for 30+ days/year offer chest x-rays and lung function tests every three years as part of routine medical exams
- Provide proper training on ways to limit exposure by identifying operations that can result in silica exposure
- Maintain proper records of exposure measurements, including medical exams and objective data.
OSHA's 29 CFR 1910.1053 standard for the maritime and general industry, employers are required to:
- Assess employee exposures to silica if it may be at or above an action level of 25 µg/m3 (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day;
- Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour day;
- Limit workers' access to areas where they could be exposed above the PEL;
- Use dust controls to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL;
- Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL;
- Use housekeeping methods that do not create airborne dust, if feasible;
- Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers;
- Offer medical exams - including chest X-rays and lung function tests - every three years for workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year;
- Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure; and
- Keep records of exposure measurements, objective data, and medical exams.