The information provided in the following sections is intended to be a helpful guide and summary of the OSHA requirements; however, it is not a substitute for the official information provided within the standard. Please refer to the OSHA Small Entity Compliance Guide for complete details.
OSHA has given employers two ways to determine crystalline silica exposure levels.
Option 1: Alternative Exposure Control Methods
This method requires that you control silica with your own methods and then measure your employees’ silica exposure through medical testing and other procedures, such as air monitoring.
The specific procedures for analyzing air samples are detailed in Appendix A of the procedure.
This can be expensive and complicated. Plus, if you discover that the exposure is at or above OSHA’s requirement, you must find better methods of limiting silica dust exposure.
Option 2: Determine Exposure Through Table 1 (preferred)
OSHA has already done some of the legwork for you and identified procedures you need to put into place to ensure any silica dust levels remain within the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
The activities and dust control methods can be found on Table 1 of the standard.
These measures are typically very easy and inexpensive to implement. Plus, employers who follow Table 1 of the standard correctly are not required to measure their worker’s exposure to silica and are not subject to the PEL.
See specific dust control methods for three common operations performed by concrete operators as outlined by Table 1:
Create a Written Exposure Plan
All employers covered by the standard—even if you fully implement all the specified exposure controls on Table 1—must develop and implement a written exposure control plan.
Your plan must include a description of the following:
OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standard requires employers to review and evaluate the effectiveness of the written exposure plan at least once a year and to update it as necessary.
The Written Exposure Control Plan must contain descriptions of the tasks that create silica exposure, the controls, practices, and any respiratory protection used to limit exposures.
Competent Person Inspections
OSHA expects routine observations of dust-generating tasks to be made by a designated “competent person” at your company. The person is expected to take prompt and quick action with any increase of visible dust.
According to OSHA, a competent person is someone who:
The employer can designate any of his/her employees (including the employee who does the work on a job site) to be a competent person if the individual is qualified.
All employers covered by the OSHA respirable crystalline silica standard (whether you’re implementing Table 1 control methods or your own) must follow proper housekeep-ing procedures to limit employees’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
Housekeeping Do’s and Don’ts
Are there exceptions to the rules?
Situations in which no acceptable cleaning method (such as wet sweeping and HEPA-filtered vacuuming) can be used are expected to be very rare. In those rare cases where the employer needs to use cleaning methods, such as dry sweeping, dry brushing, or compressed air, the employer must be able to show why cleaning methods that decrease employee exposures are not feasible.
The OSHA standard requires employers to provide medical screening and surveillance to allow for early identification of crystalline-silica-exposure-related health effects.
Silica-related diseases can be fatal. A variety of organs can be affected and it can even put individuals at risk for contracting latent tuberculosis, which makes it a public health threat as well.
Which employees must be offered medical surveillance?
According to paragraph (H) of the standard, employers must make an initial or periodic medical examination available to employees who will be required by silica standard to wear a respirator for 30 or more days in the coming year (the next 365 days). Even if the employee only has to wear a respirator for a few minutes during one day, it counts as a full day of respirator use.
How frequent should the exams be?
Employers must offer medical examinations:
Who should conduct the exams?
Medical exams must be conducted by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional (PLHCP). The PLHCP should have a thorough knowledge of silica-related health effects.
What should the medical exam cover?
The following is a list of the required components of medical surveillance under the respirable crystalline silica standard.
What if my employee is referred to a specialist?
The employer must make the specialist examination available within 30 days of receiving the written medical opinion that includes the PLHCP’s recommendation for a specialist examination. The specialist must be either an American Board Certified Specialist in Pulmonary Disease or an American Board Certified Specialist in Occupational Medicine.
The employer must ensure the specialist:
Communication of Hazards
Employers must train and inform employees covered by the silica standard about respirable crystalline silica hazards and the methods the employer uses to limit their exposures to those hazards. Employers must cover the cost of training and must pay employees for the time spent in training.
What should training topics cover?
The employer must ensure that employees trained under the silica standard can demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the following:
Topics that employers could communicate include:
Make a Copy of the Standard Available
Employers must make a copy of the respirable crystalline silica standard available at no cost to each employee covered by the standard. This could simply involve allowing employees to view a printed or electronic copy in a reasonable location.
What training methods should I use?
The silica standard does not require the employer to use any particular method for training employees. Training must be done in a manner and language that employees understand. Employers can determine if employees know and understand the training topics through discussion of the required training subjects, written tests, or oral quizzes.
Employers are required to make and keep accurate records to demonstrate compliance with the standard as well as assist in diagnosing and identifying workplace-related illnesses.
Employers are required to keep the following types of records:
*Employers who follow Table 1 of the standard are not required to take air samples or objective data to measure silica exposures.
If you do not follow Table 1, you must follow the procedures listed in Appendix A of the standard.
What records do I need to keep for medical surveillance?
The employer must make and keep an accurate record for each employee provided medical surveillance under the standard. The record must include the following information about the employee:
Records must be thorough and accessible
Exposure and medical records must be kept and made available to employees, their representatives, and OSHA in accordance with OSHA’s access to employee exposure and medical records regulation.
A separate OSHA regulation (29 CFR 1910.1020, Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records) addresses requirements for maintaining exposure and medical records.
In general, exposure records (including air monitoring and objective data) must be kept for at least 30 years, and medical records must be kept for at least the duration of employment plus 30 years.
It is necessary to keep these records for extended periods because silica-related diseases such as cancer often cannot be detected until several decades after exposure.
However, if an employee works for an employer for less than one year, the employer does not have to keep the medical records after employment ends, as long as the employer gives those records to the employee.