News | Published January 27, 2014 | Written by Scott DeHart, MD, PhD, medical director, occupational health, Mount Nittany Physician Group

OSHA proposed rule making on silica

As announced in the Federal Register on September 12, 2013, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing a long awaited rule making process regarding respirable crystalline silica.

These crystals can be found in industries involving the cutting, grinding, and crushing of stone, rock, brick, or sand, such as foundries, sand blasting and fracking industries or in the manufacture of bricks, pottery, or concrete. Chronic exposure to silica can cause silicosis, a chronic and progressive lung disease, as well as lung cancer.

The proposed rule would require exposure evaluation (industrial hygiene measurements with a new Permissible Exposure Limit or PEL of <50 mcg/cubic meter and an Action Level of 25 mcg/cubic meter), engineering controls, medical monitoring of exposed workers on a periodic basis, respiratory protection (respirators), hazard communication, and training. The medical surveillance of exposed workers would include a physician evaluation with chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests performed on a periodic basis.

The proposed rule starts the process leading to a full fledged OSHA regulation. Normally this process takes one to two years, but for industries involved with silica, it may be prudent to consider some of the changes being suggested in it. This rule is being developed separately for general industry and maritime, and for the construction industry. View details of the proposed rule.