Back in 2017, OSHA took a stand and mandated safety precautions be taken to cut the effect of crystalline silica dust on workers. Evidence shows that workers who expose themselves to crystalline silica dust for prolonged periods of time are more prone to lung, kidney, and even various cancer diseases. There are now 2 million workers in the United States that are still at serious risk of contracting an airborne disease from crystalline silica dust.

OSHA provided permissible exposure limits (PELs) for various industries. OSHA has permissible exposure limits for about 470 toxic substances that are based on the “severity of the health effect, the number of exposed workers, the toxicity of the substance, uses and prevailing exposure levels of the substance, the potential risk reduction, availability, and quality of information useful in quantitative risk assessment to make sure that significant risks are assessed and that workers will experience real benefits in the form of enhanced health and safety” as outlined by OSHA.

The recent PEL silica dust standard implemented in 2017, with a hard deadline of 2020, assessed the overall impact of silica dust. There were standard changes from 2019 to become compliant by 2020, which were:

  • If there is an alternative for cleanup practices, that keeps workers out of harm’s reach (from silica dust), then all alternatives must be used.
  • Business owners are now REQUIRED to give medical examinations for each worker exposed to PEL for 30 or more days. These examinations will be routine and will occur every three years.
  • The most common form of crystalline silica being dust, those subjected to working in the high exposure areas must be trained on how to limit the exposure they experience, and others experience.
  • Medical examinations must be documented and have a consistent record that shows previous exposure, and various data.

Silica Dust Standard Common Mistakes

OSHA is consistently finding companies that are violating the rules set in place. When it comes to violating rules, the penalty will vary in price based on the severity of the situation.  Typically, the least penalty price is $5,000, with the more severe fines ranging up to $70,000 in the United States.

Companies with repeat offenses can receive up to $7,000 in fines a day. These fines are in place to encourage some type of engineering control to protect workers. One of the solutions to comply with OSHA’s dust control standard is to buy an industrial vacuum, or dust collector equipped with a HEPA filter. HEPA filters are known for their unmatched abilities by collecting more than 99.97% of dust particulates smaller than 0.3 microns in size.

How Can You Improve Your Facilities?

We know that the most common form of crystalline silica is dust. However, the construction industry is the most at-risk industry with 20-30 percent of silica particulates being in cement and brick airborne dust. To combat this dust, using cutting materials that include water will allow for the dust to congeal in the blade, resulting in a lack of airborne substances.

For the inside of your facility, ventilation is key. Ventilation can be provided through various means, but dust collection systems are equipped with trapping, and catching most dust before it has the chance to be inhaled.

How Can You Comply in 2021?

If you are now following all the recommended measures above, then your facility or workplace should be 2021 certified. However, if you find yourself in the fracking industry, come June 2021, the deadline for engineering control will be enforced. This is because crystalline silica dust is found in the sand while fracking.

The fracking industry deadline is similar to the PEL compliance deadline; however, this industry was allotted more time. The fracking industry is going to be one of the most difficult to make sure all areas of exposure are limited.

We urge you to read through our other blogs on crystalline silica dust, dust in general, and how to comply with PEL compliance deadlines.

If you find yourself not complying with the above regulations, our dust collection systems are types of engineering control methods that will reduce the hazards in your industry. If an industrial vacuum is better equipped for your industry, look through which model will provide the most relief, and accommodate your work. Consider reaching out if you cannot find what you are looking for. With OSHA’s guidelines requiring engineering control, we encourage you to consider your workers when providing this control method in your facility.