The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced earlier this year it would roll a proposal of stronger standards when it comes to worker exposure to crystalline silica. Commonly used in the industry, silica can cause many health problems including cancer, tuberculosis and silicosis (lung disease).
In the wake of these concerns the proposal would revise two standards with a new exposure limit in construction, general industry and maritime. Adopted in 1971, the current standard allows “100 micrograms per cubic meter of air in an 8-hour time-weighted average,” according to a National Safety Council article. The new standard would limit exposure to 50 micrograms per cubic meter, and employers would be required to monitor exposure at 25 micrograms per cubic meter (action level).
“This proposal is long overdue.” said OSHA Administrator David Michaels. “OSHA’s current standards for protecting workers from silica exposure are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect worker health.”
On December 11 the Federal Register will open up for public comment with hearings beginning March 4. Worker, who are the real stakeholders in this new proposal, are encouraged to weigh in on the hearings to offer their perspective to those deciding on this new proposal.
The new rule would also require employers to offer medical exams every three years for workers would had been exposed above the PEL limit for 30 days or more, including chest X-rays and lung function tests.
However, Michaels offered some doubt in how the new rule would be implemented: “…it is unclear how the proposed PEL could be enforced given that serious questions remain about the ability of laboratories to measure silica exposures accurately and reliably at such low concentrations.”