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Amerisure Insights Blog
PROPERTY & CASUALTY
MAR 06, 2017
Brought to you by Amerisure
Silica Standard Raises Bar on Construction Industry Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is updating exposure limits to
respirable crystalline silica
for both general industry/maritime organizations and construction industries. The prior standards were established more than 40 years ago and were based on research from the 1960s and earlier. Newer scientific evidence suggests that current exposure levels can result in cases of lung cancer and kidney disease, according to OSHA.
Silica is a mineral found in sand, stone, concrete, brick, blocks and mortar. Breathing crystalline silica particles can cause silicosis, an incurable and sometimes fatal lung disease, as well as lung cancer and other diseases. OSHA estimates that 2.3 million people in the United States are exposed to silica in the workplace each year — 87% of them in the construction industry — with more than 600 dying from silica-related diseases and 900 developing new cases of silicosis.
Construction is an industry with a heightened risk of silica dust exposure. The common operations of cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, rock and stone products, as well as glass manufacturing, foundries, sand blasting and other types of work, all can expose workers to crystalline silica dust.
The permissible exposure limit (PEL) under the new standard for construction is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour workday. That is approximately one-fifth of the PEL under the previous standard for construction.
Among the requirements of the new silica standard for construction companies are:
Controls and work practices to reduce workers' exposure, such as wetting or vacuuming dust before workers can breathe it.
Developing a written exposure control plan.
Limiting access to high-exposure areas.
Supplying respiratory protection.
Measuring exposure in certain cases.
Offering medical examinations to highly exposed workers.
OSHA's deadline for compliance with the new silica standard is June 23, 2017, for the construction industry, and June 23, 2018, for general industry/maritime employers. OSHA estimates that the average workplace covered by the rule will incur average annual expenses of $1,524 to comply with the rule, and employers with 20 or fewer workers will incur far less.
Construction companies that are not already taking steps to minimize workers' exposure to silica dust should begin doing so right away. For more information on construction, risk management, loss control and workers compensation programs, please visit Amerisure's Insights Blog at