On March 24, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a new rule aimed at saving hundreds of lives annually from dangerous exposure to respirable silica dust.
About 2.3 million men and women work in environments where they face exposure to respirable crystalline silica, a fine dust that can cause lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease. OSHA's new rule updates the maximum allowed exposure limits for the toxin, a move it expects will save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis every year. What's more, the agency says it expects the rule to save businesses as much as $7.7 billion per year.
"The previous exposure limits were outdated and did not adequately protect workers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels in a release. "Limiting exposure to silica dust is essential. Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. Today, we are taking action to bring worker protections into the 21st century in ways that are feasible and economical for employers to implement."
According to OSHA, the rule will protect workers by:
- Reducing the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica.
- Requiring employers to use engineering controls and work practices to limit worker exposure.
- Providing new, easy-to-use tools businesses can use to improve compliance without having to monitor exposures.
To better protect your employees from dangerous silica exposure, OSHA recommends:
- Replacing crystalline silica materials with safer substitutes whenever possible.
- Employing local exhaust ventilation or blasting cabinets to reduce exposure.
- Performing water sprays and other work practices to reduce dust exposures.
- Providing appropriate respirators to employees working in high-exposure areas.
- Performing training, exposure monitoring and health screening and surveillance programs to monitor any adverse health effects caused by crystalline silica exposures.
Working with Safety Consultants can help keep your company up to date with the latest OSHA regulations. To learn more about how you can benefit from contractor safety programs, contact Safety Advantage today.