The U.S. Department of Labor has been studying the dangers of silica dust since the 1930s but didn’t set any safety standards until 1971, the year the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established.
On June 23, 2016, OSHA announced new rules to protect workers from exposure to silica dust, or respirable crystalline silica, which occurs during common construction tasks like drilling, cutting, or crushing silica-containing materials such as concrete, stone, and soil.
According to OSHA, 2 million construction workers are exposed to silica dust on more than 600,000 jobsites across the U.S., and approximately 840,000 workers are exposed to levels that exceed the new permissible exposure limit (PEL).
Exposure to silica dust is linked to illnesses such as silicosis, lung cancer, respiratory diseases, and kidney disease.
New Rules for Construction Sites
OSHA’s new safety requirements mean site managers are required to:
- Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that commonly expose workers to silica dust and procedures to restrict exposure.
- Assign a competent person to implement the written exposure plan.
- Restrict housekeeping practices that may cause exposure and substitute with alternative practices.
- Provide medical exams every three years for workers who wear respirators for 30 or more days per year.
- Train workers on how silica dust is created and ways to limit exposure.
- Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.
There are several ways to mitigate silica on the jobsite, including respirators, disposable work clothes, wet drilling, and abatement.
Associated General Contractors (AGC) offers more information about the new rules.
Americover’s 6 mil fire-retardant anti-static poly is frequently used to provide safe and effective dust abatement on jobsites.
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