OSHA’s Silica Standard – Top Two Complaints

We work quite a bit with Contractor’s Risk Management, Inc. (CRM), New England’s premier safety and health consultants. After training hundreds of construction employees on OSHA’s silica standard (29 C.F.R. §1153), the folks at CRM say that the two biggest gripes are: 1) specialized equipment; and 2) respirator use.

Simply using a cordless drill or handheld power saw on concrete will now (in many instances) require attachments, i.e. integrated water delivery system, HEPA vacuum, etc. Employers are begrudgingly realizing that they have to retrofit or otherwise replace all of their concrete cutting tools. Those costs can add up fast. Also, many indoor tasks generating respirable silica will require (at the very least) dust masks (Assigned Protective Factor-10). No big deal right? Wrong.

Once employees are required to wear even a dust mask, the employer must: 1) have a respiratory protection program; 2) obtain medical clearance for each employee required to wear respiratory protection; 3) conduct fit testing, 4) conduct training, etc. If you are not generating in excess of 25 micrograms per meter cubed (25 µg/m3) be aware that if you give your employees the option of wearing (for example) a dust mask, you will be subjecting yourself to the respiratory protection requirements (e.g. medical clearance, fit testing, training).

Bottom line, the silica standard is going to be costly to comply with for many employers. If you have questions, feel free to call our friends at CRM – lean on someone who has already mastered this OSHA regulation.

About the Author: James F. Laboe 

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