OSHA Issues Guidance For Acceptable Silica Levels On The Jobsite

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Sept. 15 issued guidelines outlining the permissible exposure limit to dust containing crystalline silica on construction jobsites in a document titled, “Controlling Silica Exposures in Construction.”  Crystalline silica has been known to cause the lung disease silicosis.

Although not a final rule, the guidance document can be used by inspectors to issue citations under the “general duty clause” which requires employers to supply each employee a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that could cause or could be likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

The official document lists methods for controlling silica such as engaging in “wet cutting” when using hand-held saws, grinders and jackhammers so that dust particles are heavier and more likely to stick to each other, reducing the chance of dust becoming airborne.  OSHA also recommends employers monitor silica levels by testing air samples on the jobsite to determine if they exceed the permissible exposure limit.

ABC encourages members to review their safety practices related to silica dust as well as all other OSHA standards to make sure they are in compliance with the latest guidance documents.  Contractors interested in additional safety tools, including compliance information, training opportunities and ABC’s Safety Training and Evaluation Process (STEP), can access the resources online at www.abc.org/safety.

For more information, contact Chris Williams at ABC, Cwilliams@abc.org, or visit http://www.osha.gov/Publications/3362silica-exposures.pdf to view the full guidance document.