OSHA final rule regarding silica dust exposure Email
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 07:00 AM

Laying brickOn June 23, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) final rule regarding exposure to respirable crystalline silica will go into effect. The aim of the rule is to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers. There are two standards: one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime.

Employers have one year to comply with the new rule, and OSHA has unveiled a number of resources to help with compliance. A web site (www.silica-safe.org) has an online, interactive “Create-a-Plan” tool that allows employers to create their required written plan and be sure it is in compliance. Once completed, the plan can be emailed, downloaded, or printed to keep on record. The site also offers manuals, talks, videos, presentations, and handouts for communicating the rule with employees.

Additionally, OSHA has partnered in Colorado with CSU Health & Safety Consultation Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Services to offer small businesses a free consultation to help with compliance. This confidential service can help identify and correct safety/health hazards and possible violations. At the end of June, OSHA also plans to issue a small entity compliance guide on their web site.

In speaking with ALCC member companies about the new rule, one fact seemed clear: the rule is necessary for worker safety.

“It’s not merely an excuse to collect fines and create a reason to audit employers,” one employer noted. Landscape company employees can be exposed to respirable crystalline silica on the job. Silica-containing materials include sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar—all materials found in many hardscapes.

Depending on the amount of hardscape work done and how often the work is performed, companies will have to respond differently. There is a table provided to help determine the proper requirements for each task based on the amount of exposure. For example, a disposable dust mask will not comply when a respirator with an APF 10 is required.

Employers planning compliance may need to track exposure in the coming months in order to determine the appropriate safety measures for their workers.

One mid-sized company estimated that there will be both administrative costs (2-3 hours to create the plan, which must be reviewed annually) and equipment costs ($1,000-2,000 for upgrades to equipment shrouds and dust collectors, in their case) to reach compliance.

But a key factor in compliance will be communicating with employees. It is crucial that they understand the need for these safety requirements and know that they are rules, not guidelines.

“Making employees understand the importance of the rule will be a challenge,” said one employer. “They may think, ‘It’s just one cut,’ and that they don’t need to use a respirator or other safety equipment.”

For more detailed information on the OSHA rule and how it may affect your landscape company, use the links below.

Fact sheet https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3683.pdf

Rules for construction (including landscape): https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3681.pdf

Silica FAQs: https://www.osha.gov/silica/Silica_FAQs_2016-3-22.pdf

Final Rule: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/03/25/2016-04800/occupational-exposure-to-respirable-crystalline-silica

Read more in this issue:
Understanding the DOL overtime rule
Legislative update for Colorado landscape industry
Collaboration reaps rewards--The ELITE Award for Irrigation Management
Educate your customers about the new rain barrel law