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Sunday, January 3, 2010

OSHA Moving to Finalize Crystalline Silica Exposure Standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is moving forward on implementing the standard for occupational exposure to silica. Silica has long been considered an occupational hazard. 

Silicosis was one of the enumerated occupational diseases that were universally included into workers' compensation statutes about 40 years after the enactment of the initial model acts were adopted, at the behest of Industry, to avoid civil liability actions. Occupational disease claims continue to be problematic for State compensation systems.

"Crystalline silica is a significant component of the earth's crust, and many workers in a wide range of industries are exposed to it, usually in the form of respirable quartz or, less frequently, cristobalite. Chronic silicosis is a uniquely occupational disease resulting from exposure of employees over long periods of time (10 years or more). Exposure to high levels of respirable crystalline silica causes acute or accelerated forms of silicosis that are ultimately fatal. The current OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL) for general industry is based on a formula recommended by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) in 1971 (PEL=10mg/cubic meter/(% silica + 2), as respirable dust). The current PEL for construction and maritime (derived from ACGIH's 1962 Threshold Limit Value) is based on particle counting technology, which is considered obsolete. NIOSH and ACGIH recommend 50µg/m3 and 25µg/m3 exposure limits, respectively, for respirable crystalline silica. Both industry and worker groups have recognized that a comprehensive standard for crystalline silica is needed to provide for exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, and worker training. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has published a recommended standard for addressing the hazards of crystalline silica. The Building Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO has also developed a recommended comprehensive program standard. These standards include provisions for methods of compliance, exposure monitoring, training, and medical surveillance. "

It is anticipated that the Peer Review phase will be completed in January 2010 and that NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ) will be completed in July 2010.

The proposed Rules, 29 CFR 1915; 29 CFR 1917; 29 CFR 1918; 29 CFR 1926 (To search for a specific CFR, visit the Code of Federal Regulations.