While the respirable silica rule isn’t in effect until June 23, 2017 for the construction industry, safety professionals are questioning whether they will be able to stay compliant.
Tressi Cordaro, principal at Jackson Lewis P.C., gave Safety Leadership Conference attendees a road map to its respirable crystalline silica rule and answered some of those questions.
“It’s just about everywhere, and trying to regulate it is problematic,” Cordaro said. “The question is can employers feasibly do what OSHA is asking them to do?”
The key provisions of the rule are:
- Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
- Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
- Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
- Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.
There are two ways to comply with the standard: comply with Table 1 of the rule which details engineering and work practice control methods and the required respiratory protection and minimum assigned protection factor or regular exposure assessments, she said.
The issue with the new rule is availability of sampling pumps and certified industrial hygiene professionals for exposure assessment. The supply just is not able to fit the demand, Cordaro said.
“The agency likes to force technology into compliance,” she said.
In addition, the required competent person will have a large task on their hands. Because of the ever-changing dynamics of construction sites, the appointed person will have to do frequent and regular inspections of the job site, materials and equipment and work those into the written exposure control plan, Cordaro said.
“The agency believes this person is going to be the key to preventing overexposure,” she told attendees.
Lastly, required medical exams could come at “extensive costs” to the employer.