Later this month, OSHA’s final ruling on respirable crystalline silica in construction will go into effect. Among other provisions, the final rule will reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline over work shifts and health screenings to monitor highly exposed workers. Silica exposure is known to cause lung cancer, silicosis and other chronic lung diseases.
For employers, enforcement of the final ruling means that employers will be required to train and inform their employees about respirable crystalline silica hazards and the protections the employer uses to limit worker exposure.
Employers must ensure their employees are informed on the following topics:
- Health hazards associated with respirable crystalline silica exposure
- Specific workplace tasks that could expose employees to respirable crystalline silica- including work practices and tools
- Specific measures the employer has implemented to protect employees from respirable crystalline exposure – including engineering controls, work practices and respirators
- The contents of OSHA’s final ruling on respirable crystalline silica
- The identity and role of the competent person on the job site
- The purpose and function of the medical exam program introduced with the new standard.
For employees, enforcement of the final ruling means that they must be cognizant of their rights and responsibilities as workers. Employees are expected to seek additional guidance if they feel uncertain with any tasks.
As per the ruling, employers are required to train their employees at the time they are assigned to a position involving exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Employers must also provide additional training as necessary – such as when employers introduce new personal protection equipment.
There is no official method for providing training; there are only official training topic requirements. Employers are free to use videotapes, slideshows or other forms of instruction to train employees. However, training must cover all specific OSHA topics in detail. Failure to properly instruct employees – determined by a lack of training or employees displaying a lack of knowledge – can result in a firm being found noncompliant.
OSHA’s final ruling on respirable crystalline silica in construction takes effect September 23, 2017. Deadlines for other industries such as maritime or engineering are expected to take place next year.