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Silica

OSHA’s New Respirable Silica Rule Takes Affect!

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the final rule and has dramatically reduced the Permissible Exposure Limit [to respirable silica] for both General Industry and Construction Industry. The rule takes effect June 23, 2016. The now standardized standard for General Industry and Construction is 50 micrograms per cubic meter or air, based on an eight hour time weighted average. For General Industry that represents a 50% reduction from the previous standard of 100 micrograms, and for Construction Industry it represents an 80% reduction!

OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The Final Rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.

About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and other industries. 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.

Some other details about the rule include:

Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL;
Provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure
Limit worker access to high exposure areas
Develop a written exposure control plan
Offer medical exams to highly exposed workers
Train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
Compliance Schedule – Both standards contained in the final rule take effect on June 23, 2016., after which industries have one to five years to comply with most requirements, based on the following schedule:

Construction – June 23, 2017, one year after the effective date.

General Industry and Maritime – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.

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News Release
U.S. Department of Labor

March 24, 2016
US Labor Department announces final rule to improve U.S. workers’ protection from the dangers of ‘respirable’ silica dust
Updated rule amends silica exposure regulations for first time since 1971

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced a final rule to improve protections for workers exposed to respirable silica dust. The rule will curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

“More than 80 years ago, Labor Secretary Frances Perkins identified silica dust as a deadly hazard and called on employers to fully protect workers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “This rule will save lives. It will enable workers to earn a living without sacrificing their health. It builds upon decades of research and a lengthy stakeholder engagement process – including the consideration of thousands of public comments – to finally give workers the kind of protection they deserve and that Frances Perkins had hoped for them.”

OSHA estimates that when the final rule on Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica becomes fully effective, it will save more than 600 lives annually and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis – an incurable and progressive disease – each year. The agency also estimates the final rule will provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion per year.

“The previous exposure limits were outdated and did not adequately protect workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Limiting exposure to silica dust is essential. Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. Today, we are taking action to bring worker protections into the 21st century in ways that are feasible and economical for employers to implement.”

About 2.3 million men and women face exposure to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including two million construction workers who drill and cut silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries and hydraulic fracturing. Most employers can limit harmful dust exposure by using equipment that is widely available – generally using water to keep dust from getting into the air or a ventilation system to capture dust where it is created.

The final rule will improve worker protection by:
Reducing the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.

Requiring employers to use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) and work practices to limit worker exposure; provide respiratory protection when controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level; limit access to high exposure areas; train workers; and provide medical exams to highly exposed workers.

Providing greater certainty and ease of compliance to construction employers – including many small employers – by including a table of specified controls they can follow to be in compliance, without having to monitor exposures.

Staggering compliance dates to ensure employers have sufficient time to meet the requirements, e.g., extra time for the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) industry to install new engineering controls and for all general industry employers to offer medical surveillance to employees exposed between the PEL and 50 micrograms per cubic meter and the action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

The final rule is written as two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime. Employers covered by the construction standard have until June 23, 2017 to comply with most requirements. Employers covered by the general industry and maritime standard have until June 23, 2018 to comply with most requirements; additional time is provided to offer medical exams to some workers and for hydraulic fracturing employers to install dust controls to meet the new exposure limit.
More information is available at https://www.osha.gov/silica/

Rule requires engineering controls to keep workers from breathing silica dust
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (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.

OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The Final Rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.

About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. 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.

Key Provisions
Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.

Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.

Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.

Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.

Compliance Schedule
Both standards contained in the final rule take effect on June 23, 2016., after which industries have one to five years to comply with most requirements, based on the following schedule:

    Construction – June 23, 2017, one year after the effective date.
    General Industry and Maritime – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.
    Hydraulic Fracturing – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021.

Background
The U.S. Department of Labor first highlighted the hazards of respirable crystalline silica in the 1930s, after a wave of worker deaths. The department set standards to limit worker exposure in 1971, when OSHA was created. However, the standards are outdated and do not adequately protect workers from silica-related diseases. Furthermore, workers are being exposed to silica in new industries such as stone or artificial stone countertop fabrication and hydraulic fracturing.

A full review of scientific evidence, industry consensus standards, and extensive stakeholder input provide the basis for the final rule, which was proposed in September 2013. The rule-making process allowed OSHA to solicit input in various forms for nearly a full year. The agency held 14 days of public hearings, during which more than 200 stakeholders presented testimony, and accepted over 2,000 comments, amounting to about 34,000 pages of material. In response to this extensive public engagement, OSHA made substantial changes, including enhanced employer flexibility in choosing how to reduce levels of respirable crystalline silica, while maintaining or improving worker protection.

X. State-Plan States
When Federal OSHA promulgates a new standard or a more stringent amendment to an existing standard, the 28 States and U.S. territories with their own OSHA-approved occupational safety and health plans (“State-Plan States”) must revise their standards to reflect the new standard or amendment. The State standard must be at least as effective as the Federal standard or amendment, and must be promulgated within six months of the publication date of the final Federal rule (29 U.S.C. 667(c)(2); 29 CFR 1953.5(a)).

A State-Plan State may demonstrate that a standard change is unnecessary because the State standard is already the same as or at least as effective as the new or amended Federal standard. In order to avoid delays in worker protection, the effective date of the State standard and any of its delayed provisions must be the date of State promulgation or the Federal effective date, whichever is later. The Assistant Secretary may permit a longer time period if the State timely demonstrates that good cause exists for extending the time limitation (29 CFR 1953.5(a)). Of the 28 States and territories with OSHA-approved State plans, 22 cover public and private-sector employees: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Six States and territories cover only public-sector employees: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and the Virgin Islands.

This respirable crystalline silica rule applies to general industry, construction, and maritime, and imposes additional or more stringent requirements as compared to the existing permissible exposure limits for respirable crystalline silica. This rule requires that all State-Plan States revise their general industry and construction standards appropriately within six months of the date of this notice. In addition, State plans that cover private sector maritime employment or have public employees working in the maritime industry covered by this standard would be required to adopt comparable provisions to their maritime standards within six months of publication of the final rule.

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OSHA Challenged On New Silica Protections
April 11,2016 by Roger Marks

Major industry groups filed suit in the US Fifth Court of Appeals this week to challenge OSHA’s new permissible exposure limit (PEL) for breathable silica. Among the challengers to the new OSHA silica rule is the ACG, the Associated General Contractors of America.

Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the AGC, had the following to say: “…we have significant concerns about whether this new rule is technically feasible, given that the agency’s final permissible exposure limit is beyond the capacity of existing dust filtration and removal technology.”

In its dispatch to Congress, the ACG requests that the Speaker of the House sign on to a letter that urges Congress to “force OSHA to prove that their proposed rule to regulate the hazards of crystalline silica exposure is technologically and economically feasible prior to finalization, implementation, or enforcement.”

The legal challenge is unlikely to surprise anyone who’s followed OSHA’s efforts to regulate breathable silica for employees in general industry workplaces, construction job sites, and maritime jobs. Silica is a component of sand and quartz and covers more than 10% of the earth’s crust. In other words, the stuff is everywhere—which is why creating exposure limits for respirable silica took half a century.

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