Stringent OSHA Silica Rule Cuts Permissible Exposure Limit in Half
March 29, 2016
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) formally released its final silica rule on March 24. The core provisions of the rule as it was originally proposed in 2013 have remained relatively unchanged. The rule will lower the permissible exposure for crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (50 μg/cu.m), averaged over an eight-hour shift, from the current 100 μg/cu.m.
Metalcasting businesses also will be required to use engineering controls and work practices to limit worker exposure and access to high exposure areas, train workers, and provide medical exams. The standard for general industry will take effect June 23, 2016, and metalcasters will have two years to come into compliance with most requirements.
The rule was formally published in the Federal Register on March 25 and will be effective in 90 days. Here is the link to the final rule: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/03/25/2016-04800/occupational-exposure-to-respirable-crystalline-silica
A brief overview of the key provisions contained in the final rule impacting sand casting facilities is below.
|Permissible Exposure Level||50 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/cu.m) of air over 8-hour time weighted average (TWA)|
|Action Level||25 μg/cu.m over 8-hour time weighted average|
|Protective Clothing||No requirements for use of protective clothing|
|Housekeeping||Prohibits use of compressed air, dry sweeping, and dry brushing unless other methods are not feasible|
|Ban on Employee Rotation||The overly broad proposed ban on employee rotation was removed from the final rule|
|Methods of Compliance/Engineering Controls||Engineering/work practice controls must be used to reduce/maintain employee exposure to silica to or below the PEL, unless the employer can demonstrate that such controls are not feasible. Wherever such feasible engineering/work practice controls are not sufficient to reduce employee exposure to or below the PEL, the employer must use the controls to reduce employee exposure to the lowest feasible level and supplement them with respiratory protection.|
Employers must assess the exposure of eachemployee at or above the action level using either of the following options:
Performance Option – Assess the 8-hour TWA exposure for each employee on the basis of any combination of air monitoring data or objective data sufficient to characterize employee exposures to crystalline silica.
Scheduled Monitoring Option
|Respiratory Protection||Respiratory protection is required where exposures exceed the PEL during periods necessary to install or implement feasible engineering and work practice controls; where exposures exceed the PEL during tasks, such as certain maintenance/repair tasks, where engineering and work practice controls are not feasible; and during tasks for which an employer has implemented all feasible engineering and work practice controls and such controls are not sufficient to reduce exposures to or below the PEL. Respirators are also required in regulated areas.|
|Written Exposure Control Plan||
Employer must develop a written exposure control plan. The plan must contain following elements:
Employer must review and evaluate effectiveness of control plan at least annually and as necessary. The control plan must be available for examination, upon request, to each employee covered by this section, their designated representatives, the Assistant Secretary and OSHA Director.
Requires companies to establish a regulated area to limit access to areas where exposure to silica exceeds the PEL. Employers must demarcate regulated areas, and limit access to regulated areas to persons authorized by the employer and required by work duties to be present in the regulated area, persons observing exposure monitoring, or any person authorized by the OSH Act or regulations issued under it to be in a regulated area. Employers are required to provide each employee and the employee's designated representative entering a regulated area with an appropriate respirator and require its use while in the regulated area
Access control plan NOT included.
|Signage for Regulated Areas||
Employers must post signs with mandatory language at all entrances to regulated areas:
RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA
MAY CAUSE CANCER
CAUSES DAMAGE TO LUNGS
WEAR RESPIRATORY PROTECTION IN THIS AREA
AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY
Medical surveillance must be made available to employees exposed to silica at or above the PEL for 30 or more days per year, effective June 23, 2018; and to employees exposed to silica at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year – Effective June 23, 2020. Examination includes x-ray and pulmonary function tests every 3 years and initial TB test. Employer shall provide examining health care provider with:
|Written Medical Opinion||
Written medical opinion from physicians or licensed health care professionals for medical examinations. Limits information provided to employer to date of examination, a statement that the examination has met the requirements of the standard, and any recommended limitations on the employee’s use of respirators. The health provider will provide a detailed report for the employee. Sample forms and reports are included in a non-mandatory Appendix B. If a medical opinion indicates additional examination by a specialist the exam must be completed within 30 days.
|Recordkeeping: Air monitoring data||
Make and maintain record of all exposure measurements taken to assess employee exposure to respirable silica. Record must include:
June 23, 2016
June 23, 2018 – All requirements of the rule must be met.