OSHA attributes a good amount of illnesses and deaths to exposure to silica dust, having been proven to carcinogenic and a cause of untreatable silicosis, which creates a distinct lesion in the lungs. OSHA also hasn’t updated its laws regarding silica exposure since 1971. As such, OSHA plans to do something about it.
As of June 23, 2016, OSHA’s new silica rules will go into effect, limiting silica dust exposure to an average of 50 micrograms per hour, and woe unto those who do not comply. Respirators won’t cut it; any number of factors, such as lack of necessary maintenance or ill fit could lead to exposure while wearing a respirator. Most industries will need to comply completely by June 23, 2018. The main exception is construction, which much be made by June 23, 2017.
OSHA expects the average cost per business to be around $1,560 on average. So, if you aren’t already, how can you get into compliance with these new laws? A few examples include:
1). Improved Ventilation
An easy way to decrease silica exposure is increasing ventilation. Placing work stations under ventilation hoods and Installing a dust collector in the attached ductwork will be one of the most effective means to reducing silica dust. Aerodyne’s new Point-of-Use Collector, when combined with other technologies, is ideal for this application, easily able to fit into a product containment setup since it can be placed indoors under NFPA rules. The Point-of-Use system is small enough to be integrated into existing setups, or even segmented into its own mini-setup at the point of collection.
2). Improved wetting of equipment
Keeping a workstation properly damp can prevent the particles from becoming airborne and being inhaled. Many pieces of machinery, such as certain hand-held angle grinders, are able to deliver water to the point of contact. Still, the cost of setting up the necessary equipment, alongside the increased use of water, could make this system cost prohibitive. Equipment may not have the capability to wet the dust included, necessitating a separate piece of machinery to do the job. Wetting is also not recommended for use on or around products such as finished cabinets, walls, and floors.
The method of last resort, respirators can be used in a variety of tasks, are portable, and are highly visible for checking compliance. As mentioned before though, a respirator cannot be the only means of reducing exposure to silica. In addition, any respirator that complies with the regulation must be fitted to the person using it. The benefits also are nullified if the respirator is not worn or forgotten, which could be problematic depending on the culture within the shop. Respirators are also uncomfortable and often hot, decreasing morale.
The above means are hardly comprehensive, but are a good starting point for compliance. Also mandatory are items such as a written exposure plan, which details exposure and safety measures applied, and mandatory medical exams every three years for workers exposed to high levels of silica dust. More detail about the regulation can be found at https://www.osha.gov/silica/.
For more information about how Aerodyne's line of durable dust collectors, such as the Point of Use collector, can help aid silica dust compliance, call 1 (440) 543-7400 or e-mail dc@dustcollectorhq,com.