OSHA Proposes New Respirable Crystalline Silica Rule: Here Are Some Helpful Resources


OSHA recently announced a proposed rule to protect workers exposed to crystalline silica. You may have already heard about this-it was even mentioned in the New York Times recently. But we figured we’d run through all the information you need to know right here in this one post.

First, Does the Convergence Training Blog Have Any Free Silica-Related Training Materials?

Yeah, here’s an employee silica exposure checklist for you–in four different formats, no less.

Is This a Rule or Just a Proposed Rule?

It’s just a proposed rule. That means it’s a suggestion that OSHA has put forth. There’s a lengthy process to complete before this becomes a rule, if it ever does. And that includes periods for public comments and public hearings.

Where Can I Submit a Written Comment?

Submit your written comments on OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule.

How Else Can I Participate During the Rulemaking Process?

Check out this OSHA page to learn more about rulemaking participation, or check this OSHA Silica Fact Sheet.

Is this for General Industry & Maritime, Construction, or Both?

Both. Read OSHA’s Fact Sheets about the Silica Rule for General Industry & Maritime and the Silica Rule for Construction.

So What Is Respirable Crystalline Silica?

Very small particles of silica that can enter the lungs and cause damage and death. The particles are at least 100 times smaller than a grain of sand.

Where Does Respirable Crystalline Silica Come From and How Is It Created?

It’s created when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, and crushing stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, mortar, quartz, and industrial sand.

So What’s So Bad About Respirable Crystalline Silica?

It puts people who work around it at risk of:

For more detailed information, check out OSHA’s Health Effects & Risk Assessment document.

What Would the Proposed Rules Require?

According to OSHA:

“Workers’ exposures would be limited to a new PEL of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air (μg/m3), averaged over an 8-hour day. The new PEL would be the same in all industries covered by the rule.

The proposed rule also includes provisions for measuring how much silica workers are exposed to, limiting workers’ access to areas where silica exposures are high, using effective methods for reducing exposures, providing medical exams to workers with high silica exposures, and training for workers about silica-related hazards and how to limit exposure. These provisions are similar to industry consensus standards that many responsible employers have been using for years, and the technology to better protect workers is already widely available.”

What Are Some Simple Things That Can Be Done to Lower Exposure and Risk on the Job?

Always keep in mind the “Hierarchy of Controls” when working with a potential hazard. That means trying elimination first, then engineering controls, then administrative controls, and then the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Here’s more on the Hierarchy of Controls for Respirable Silica from OSHA:

“Engineering controls include such things as replacing silica with a material that does not contain crystalline silica (substitution); using local exhaust ventilation; using containment methods, such as blast-cleaning machines and cabinets; and wet sawing or wet drilling of silica-containing materials. Administrative actions may include limiting workers’ exposure time and requiring workers to shower and change into clean clothes before leaving a worksite. Use of personal protective equipment may include wearing proper respiratory protection to keep workers’ exposure below the OSHA permissible exposure limit and the use of personal protective clothing.”

A few simple things to do to lower exposure to respirable crystalline silica on the job include:

  • Avoid cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, and crushing stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, mortar, quartz, and industrial sand when it’s not necessary.
  • Wearing respirators that keep the silica out of your lungs.
  • Wetting these materials before sawing, grinding, drilling, crushing, etc.
  • Using a vacuum to collect dust at the point where it’s created.
  • Enclosing an operation that creates silica dust.

Check this OSHA webpage for more about crystalline silica dust control measures.

What Other Resources Can I Check Out?

Try these:

Are There Other Technical/Scientific Resources about Silica?

image credit bbanauch

Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Performance Improvement Manager
Jeff is a learning designer and performance improvement specialist with more than 20 years in learning and development, 15+ of which have been spent working in manufacturing, industrial, and architecture, engineering & construction training. Jeff has worked side-by-side with more than 50 companies as they implemented online training. Jeff is an advocate for using evidence-based training practices and is currently completing a Masters degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. He writes the Vector Solutions | Convergence Training blog and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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