Understanding the new OSHA rules on silica exposure

The rules governing worker exposure to silica go into effect for construction June 23, 2017. It may offer rental centers added rental opportunities.

While the contractor is directly responsible for meeting this new standard that aims to reduce silica exposure to construction workers, savvy rental centers that understand the new rules can use it to increase rental and sales of specific equipment and tools.

The new standard requires a more stringent permissible exposure limit, moving from approximately 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air (250 μg/m3) over an 8-hour day (time weighted average) to 50 μg/m3 over an 8-hour day.

OSHA offers three methods an employer can choose from to demonstrate compliance and assess employee exposure:

1. Table 1, which is a table of pre-defined tasks and specified control methods available in the market today

2. Performance or ‘Objective Data’ that assesses exposure by providing objective data proving the control method used reduces silica dust exposure below the permissible exposure level (50 μg/m3)

3. Scheduled Air Monitoring program that assesses exposure by implementing a scheduled air monitoring program to ensure employees are not exposed above 50 μg/m3
Employers are required to have a written exposure control plan and medical surveillance (exams) must be offered for employees required by the standard to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year.

Hilti and leading construction consultants and companies recently developed a white paper that fully explains the standard. Read it here