Cal/OSHA Implements Emergency Temporary Standard for Respirable Crystalline Silica

On December 2023, Cal/OSHA established an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for respirable crystalline silica, marking a significant regulatory development aimed at enhancing worker safety in California. This ETS is not just a temporary measure; it lays the groundwork for a permanent standard slated for adoption by the end of 2024, potentially with modifications to the current provisions based on stakeholder feedback and operational insights gathered during the temporary phase.

The ETS went into effect on December 29, 2023 and makes changes to California Code of Regulations, Title 8, section 5204 that applies to California workers occupationally exposed to RCS, except:

  • Construction work covered under section 1532.3.
  • Agricultural operations covered under section 3436.
  • Exposures that result from the processing of sorptive clays.

Key Features of the ETS

Scope and Impact: The ETS specifically targets operations involving high-exposure tasks such as cutting, grinding, and polishing of materials with more than 10% crystalline silica content. This includes a variety of materials, notably artificial and natural stones, which are prevalent in general industry but not in construction and agriculture, which are covered under different regulations.

Enhanced Safety Measures: To combat the health risks associated with silica dust, the ETS mandates rigorous exposure control measures. Employers are required to implement advanced engineering controls, such as wet methods and the use of HEPA vacuums, to manage and minimize silica dust. The use of personal protective equipment, including full-face respirators with appropriate filters, is also mandated under certain conditions to ensure worker safety.

Compliance and Monitoring: Critical to this new standard is the stipulation for regular exposure monitoring — at least once every 12 months. This ensures that the implemented safety measures effectively keep silica exposure below the permissible exposure limit of 50 µg/m³. The standard also emphasizes the importance of a well documented exposure control plan, which includes procedures for the proper use of equipment, personal protective equipment, and detailed records of air monitoring.

Emergency Response: The ETS grants Cal/OSHA the authority to shut down operations immediately if egregious violations are detected that pose an imminent health risk to workers. This decisive action is aimed at preventing serious health outcomes such as silicosis or silica related cancer, which must be reported to both Cal/OSHA and the California Department of Public Health within 24 hours of confirmation.

NATEC International, Inc.’s Role in Ensuring Compliance

As the regulatory landscape evolves, NATEC International, Inc. remains at the forefront, committed to assisting businesses in navigating these changes effectively. Specializing in environmental health and safety training, NATEC is dedicated to equipping employers and employees with the knowledge and skills needed to comply with stringent regulations like the ETS for respirable crystalline silica.

Through comprehensive training programs, NATEC helps clients understand the specifics of the regulation, implement required safety measures, and maintain compliance to protect worker health and safety. Their expertise in this field is crucial for businesses aiming to meet Cal/OSHA’s enhanced standards and to foster a safe working environment.

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