Protecting Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline SilicaJanuary 30, 2019
Construction workers and other employees in the industry are exposed to a wide range of workplace hazards every day. From slip and fall accidents and electrocutions to collapsing trenches and exposure to asbestos, these are just a few of the common hazards that can cause a range of illness and injuries to hard working employees.
Depending on the nature of the job, some workers are exposed to crystalline silica, which is found in materials like sand, stone, concrete, bricks, and artificial stone. When these materials are cut, grinded, drilled, or sawed, workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica, which can cause serious health conditions like lung cancer, silicosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have developed a new standard that protects workers from exposure to this hazardous material.
Air Quality Monitoring
One of the most important steps employers can take is to monitor the air quality at the facility, to determine whether employees are exposed to dangerous levels of respirable crystalline silica. The standard requires dust levels to be below the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), and preferably below the Action Level (AL). PEL is 0.05 mg/m3. The Action Level (AL) is half that amount.
Providing employees with respirators is one preventative measure, but it is not enough. OSHA requires employers to examine ventilation systems, vacuums, and water spray options to control airborne exposure.
Preparing for OSHA Inspections
If an OSHA inspection is scheduled for your facility, the following are the areas that the inspector will focus on during the site visit:
- Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL): Employers are expected to know the level of exposure associated with a specific task. They should have monitoring results in place.
- Regulated Areas: Non-essential workers should be prohibited from high-risk areas. There should be signage, cones, or barrier tape to make sure this is enforced.
- Exposure Assessment: The OSHA inspector will expect the employer to know if employees could be exposed at the AL. The inspector will closely examine the objective data provided by the employer, in order to confirm that it is relevant to the work scenario.
- Methods of Compliance: The OSHA inspector will look at the methods used to control dust levels.
- Abrasive Blasting: This applies specifically to employers who use this equipment. However, it impacts all their workers, because the activity can create high levels of dust.
- Written Exposure Plan: This is required if the dust is above Action Level. All required elements must be included in the written exposure plan.
- Respiratory Problems: If respirators are required, the employer must follow every aspect of the respiratory program.
- Housekeeping Practices: Dry sweeping and compressed air should not be permitted, as they send dust into the air and can contribute to employee exposure.
- Communication of Hazards: Employees who are exposed at or above the AL over an eight-hour day must receive training. The Hazard Communication program must include respirable crystalline silica.
- Medical Surveillance: Any employee who was exposed above the PEL for 30 days or more per year must be evaluated by a medical professional.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Protect Workers Exposed to Respirable Silica
If you have been exposed to respirable crystalline silica in the workplace, resulting in a serious health condition, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. We will ensure that you receive the maximum financial benefits you deserve, including lost wages, medical expenses, and other costs associated with your illness. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. We represent injured workers throughout Maryland.