Silica

Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in many naturally occurring materials and used in many industrial products and at construction sites. Materials like sand, concrete, stone and mortar contain crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is also used to make products such as glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks, concrete and artificial stone. Industrial sand used in certain operations, such as foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), is also a source of crystalline silica exposure. Amorphous silica, such as silica gel, is not crystalline silica.

Inhaling very small (“respirable”) crystalline silica particles, causes multiple diseases, including silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability and death. Respirable crystalline silica also causes lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease.

OSHA estimates that around 2.3 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica on the job. Simply being near sand or other silica-containing materials is not hazardous. The hazard exists when specific activities create respirable dust that is released into the air. Respirable crystalline silica – very small particles typically at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand found on beaches or playgrounds – is generated by high-energy operations like cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling and crushing stone, rock, concrete, brick, block and mortar; or when using industrial sand. Activities such as abrasive blasting with sand; sawing brick or concrete; sanding or drilling into concrete walls; grinding mortar; manufacturing brick, concrete blocks, or ceramic products; and cutting or crushing stone generates respirable dust.

Revised OSHA regulations require employers to develop a written Exposure Control Plan and to provide monitoring to determine exposures of employees that work in and around environments that might produce airborne crystalline silica.  However, a “benefit” of the revisions to the OSHA Silica in Construction regulations is the “soon to be famous” Table 1.  Table 1 outlines a number of different construction tasks, and provides for OSHA required engineering controls, work practices and respiratory protection.  If an employer uses the controls and practices outlined in Table 1, there is no requirement for monitoring and the exposures are deemed to be below the PEL.  A Written Exposure Control Plan is required, but that’s it!!!

Allow KEM to assist your firm to stay in compliance with the OSHA regulations regarding crystalline silica.  We can provide the Written Exposure Control Plan and any necessary monitoring for your employees.