OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Regulation

What Manufacturers Need to Know About Complying with OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Regulation

While crystalline silica is a rather common mineral found naturally and used in the production of a wide range of products — from glass to ceramics — respirable crystalline silica as a byproduct of manufacturing processes represents a significant potential health risk in the workplace.

Of the nearly 2.3 million U.S. workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica, many work in manufacturing and fabrication facilities that are anything but one size fits all when it comes to workplace safety and environmental compliance.

In response, OSHA has issued two separate standards for respirable crystalline silica exposure — one for general industry and maritime, the other for construction sites — which should empower manufacturers to source a customized air filtration solution relevant to their unique facility conditions.

With a June 23, 2018 enforcement deadline looming for general industry and maritime, let’s cover the specifics of OSHA’s crystalline silica regulation to ensure that your facility can get ahead of the compliance curve.

The Respirable Silica Exposure Risks for Manufacturing

According to OSHA compliance guidance on respirable crystalline silica, the silica risk stems from tiny particles (think 100 times smaller than sand on a beach) created from manufacturing and fabrication operations such as cutting, grinding, and abrasive blasting of stone, concrete, sand, and similar materials.

Inhaling these tiny silica particles increases the risk of workers developing serious health conditions, including:

  • Silicosis (an incurable lung disease)
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Kidney disease

While employee health and safety is paramount, manufacturers should also consider the downstream impact of respirable silica exposure on workplace management, including absenteeism due to chronic conditions, rising insurance costs, and increased risk of worker's compensation claims.

The OSHA Respirable Silica Standards Requirements

Formally part of OSHA 29 CFR 1910 (specifically 1910.100 and 1910.1053), the OSHA silica standard for general industry requires companies to measure silica exposure over an 8-hour period to determine if levels are at or above 25 μg/m3 (measured as micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air).

Additional requirements outlined by OSHA include:

  • Protecting workers from exposure above a permissible limit of 50 μg/m3 over an 8-hour period.
  • Limiting worker access to facility areas where they might be exposed to respirable silica above the permissible level.
  • Employing controls to protect workers from exposure, such as dust controls or respirators.
  • Restricting certain practices (where alternatives exist) that expose workers to respirable silica.
  • Developing an exposure control plan that documents risk and protective measures.
  • Offering medical exams every three years for workers exposed to silica above the permissible level.
  • Training workers on operations that limit exposure to respirable silica.

For more information on the requirements of the OSHA silica general industry standard, visit their website.

How to Reduce Worker Exposure to Respirable Silica in Your Manufacturing Facility

OSHA’s guidance on reducing silica exposure recommends exploring commonly used dust collection controls and work practices, such as wetting work operations or implementing localized ventilation.

Though both of these and other common dust control methods can be effective in reducing silica exposure, they have certain limitations that can potentially lead to increased operational disruption and costs downstream.

A cost-effective, clean air solution to meet the OSHA silica standard should go beyond vital compliance and worker safety and enhance productivity in a manner that considers your unique environmental conditions and processes.

Duroair clean air solutions are tailored to meet individual facility requirements and minimize disruption by integrating with existing workflows. In the case of the OSHA silica standard, our filtration and enclosure system is an effective clean air solution designed to exceed the OSHA exposure requirement of 25 µg/m3 .

Here’s how:

  • Creates negative pressure, pulling all particulate to the filtration system.
  • With airflows of 150 fpm and 8 air changes per minute, respirable silica will not be able to escape the enclosure.
  • A filtration system designed with 4 stages of filtration captures 95% of particles at 1 micron. This multiple stage filtration allows for more even filter loading, resulting in longer filter life.
  • In alignment with OSHA requirements to “establish, demarcate, and limit access to regulated areas,” Duroair’s enclosure provides a properly-vented, regulated work area that limits exposure of employees to respirable silica.
  • The portable and retractable enclosure provides a fully enclosed work space that retracts to 20% of its length for material handling efficiency and enhanced productivity.

To learn more about how we’re working with manufacturers and fabricators to prepare for OSHA silica standard enforcement, or to discuss your specific silica dust collection needs, contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of Duroair’s clean air experts.

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