OSHA has begun the implementation and assessment process for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard (29 CFR 1926.1153). The general understanding is that they will use the next several months to assist manufacturers and construction companies in the field, and in October begin to levy fines for non-compliance.
What is it about?
Silica is a mineral that occurs naturally and is present in many construction materials such as sand, stone, concrete, brick and mortar. When any of these materials is processed, moved, ground, or cut, they release silica dust. Respirable silica travels deep into the lungs and can cause a variety of incurable diseases including silicosis, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The new OSHA Standard sets a new personal exposure limit (PEL) during an 8 hour shift to 50 ug (micrograms)/m3 (cubic meter) averaged over 8 hours. Simply – 50 micrograms of silica suspended in one cubic meter of air over 8 hours. Still don’t know how much that is? Let’s compare the standard to something familiar.
A paper clip weighs about 1 gram. 1gram = 1,000 milligrams = 1,000,000 micrograms. This means that the dust exposure limit is 50/1,000,000 of a paper clip per cubic meter of air. For an average person working in the field, this is about 840 micrograms of silica total over an 8 hour shift (or .00084 of the weight of a paper clip).
Clearly a very small number! Remember, this is total concentration of silica, not all dust. Even still, it will be an onerous task for many in the aggregate, building materials, and construction industries as well as oilfield, fracking and mining operations to meet.
So how can you comply with the new standard?
Preventing or limiting the exposure can be accomplished in several ways.
Containment – keep the dust from reaching the worker at all. May include measures like dust collectors, filtration, vacuum systems, physical enclosures and similar.
Abatement – Primary measure to reduce the dust, especially during cutting activities is water and water spray. Respirable dust clings to water, and the silica can be “brought to ground” with wet cutting, spray systems and the like.
PPE – The last line of defense is PPE in the form of masks, respirators, and breather systems.
What can Kaman do to help?
Kaman has several manufacturers that offer products and engineering assistance to help you comply with the new standard. To learn more, contact your local Kaman representative today.
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