Respirable Crystalline Silica Safety

Respirable Crystalline Silica Safety

Respirable Crystalline Silica Safety

Nearly two-and-a-half years after publishing a rule proposal to reduce the permissible exposure limit for silica, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released the final rule on March 24, 2016.  The previous rule, released in 1971, only required employers to limit an employee’s exposure to silica within a permissible exposure limit; however, the new rule requires a pro-active approach from employers to ensure that employees are not exposed to silica in excess of the greatly reduced permissible exposure limit, as well as offering medical examinations to employees who are considered “highly exposed.”

This new rule is comprised of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime. Industries will have one to five years to comply with the requirements of the standards based on the following schedule:Crystalline Silica


Construction – September 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.

What is Crystalline Silica?

Crystalline silica is an important industrial material found abundantly in the earth’s crust. Quartz, the most common form of silica, is a component of sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar. Materials containing quartz are found in a wide variety of workplaces.

Silica is a mineral that is found in stone, soil and sand. It is a common component of concrete, brick, mortar and other construction materials.

Industries and operations in which exposure to crystalline silica can occur include, but are not limited to:

Abrasive Blasting, Construction, Paintings and Coatings, Concrete Products, Ready-Mix Concrete, Stone Products, Glass Products, Pottery Products, Structural Clay Products, Refractory Products, Foundries, Dental Laboratories, Hydraulic Fracturing

What you need to know

The new rule:

  • Reduces the PEL to 50 ug/m3 and sets an action level of 25 ug/m3

*PEL = permissible exposure limit and is averaged over an 8-hour shift

* ug/m3 = micrograms per cubic meter

AND Requires employers to:

  • Develop a written exposure control plan;
  • Train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures;
  • 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
  • Offer medical exams to highly exposed workers





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