Events and News

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.

Provisions Final Rule
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.
Air Monitoring

Employers must assess the exposure of eachemployee at or above the action level using either of the following options:

Performance OptionAssess 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

  1. Perform initial monitoring to assess the 8-hour TWA exposure for each employee on each shift, for each job classification, in each work area. Where several employees perform the same tasks on the same shift and in the same work area, the employer may sample a representative fraction of these employees by sampling the employee(s) who are expected to have the highest exposure to silica.
  2. If initial monitoring indicates that employee exposures are below the action level, the employer may discontinue monitoring for those employees.
  3. Where employee exposures are at or above the action level but at or below the PEL, the employer shall repeat such monitoring within 6 months.
  4. Where employee exposures are above the PEL, the employer shall repeat such monitoring within three months.
  5. Where the most recent (non-initial) exposure monitoring indicates that employee exposures are below the action level, the employer must repeat such monitoring within 6 months of the most recent monitoring until two consecutive measurements, taken 7 or more days apart, are below the action level, at which time the employer may discontinue monitoring for those employees, except in certain circumstances.  Current respirable dust sampling equipment (pumps and cyclones) can be used to assess exposures.
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:

  1. Description of tasks in workplace that involve exposure to silica.
  2. Description of engineering controls, work practices, & respiratory protection used to limit employee exposure to silica for each task.
  3. Description of housekeeping measures used to limit employee exposure to silica.

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.

Regulated Areas

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

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:

  1. Copy of standard.
  2. Description of duties.
  3. Silica exposure levels.
  4. PPE used.
  5. Results of previous medical test under control of employer.
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:

  1. Date of measurement for each sample taken.
  2. Task monitored.
  3. Sampling and analytical methods used.
  4. Number, duration, and results of samples taken.
  5. Identity of laboratory that performed the analysis.
  6. Type of PPE, such as respirators, worn by the employees monitored.
  7. Name, social security number, and job classification of all employees represented by the monitoring, indicating which employees were actually monitored.
Effective Date

June 23, 2016

Implementation Date

June 23, 2018 – All requirements of the rule must be met.