Industry

Commercial

The New Crystalline Silica Dust Regulations

5/12/17
Grainger Editorial Staff

John McDermott:
Welcome to Grainger Insights. I'm John McDermott. Today we're going to be talking about the new silica ruling. With me is Lindsay Cook. Lindsay, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

Lindsay Cook:
Thanks, John. Great to be here.

John McDermott:
Lindsay, what's the biggest challenge that we're seeing with regard to silica?

Lindsay Cook:
I think one of the biggest challenges is just understanding the issues involved around this new regulation. We've got a new permissible exposure limit. The old permissible exposure limit was fairly confusing, because it was a calculated number, depending on what sample you took that day. Now, we're dealing with a simple numeric value for crystalline silica. That's going to be a big change for folks that worked with silica over the years.

Lindsay Cook:
Now that we're dealing with all these other elements in the standard, there's going to need to be much more organization, much more thought given to how we comply. There are some choices to be made about which direction you want to go for compliance, but it will take more of a management systems approach to be effective in dealing with this standard.

John McDermott:
Lindsay, share with us some advice that you might lend.

Lindsay Cook:
Step one is to educate yourself with regard to the standard. Step two is to make sure that you're getting your data correct. Make sure that the sampling procedures you or your consultant is using are proper and effective so that you've got good data to make decisions on. Then lastly, look at how that standard impacts your organization. How does it best fit with what you're doing already in your safety and health programs or their elements? For instance, your hazard communication training program that can be modified to address the silica issue.

John McDermott:
Do these new regulations represent a substantial burden compared to the old OSHA requirements on silica?

Lindsay Cook:
Well, as I said earlier, in the past, we had just dealt with a permissible exposure limit. That's a number. You meet the number. If you're okay, you're off to the races. If you're over the number, then there's certain things you have to do.

Lindsay Cook:
Now, we have these other management elements included in the standard. The training that I mentioned, the medical surveillance, a number of issues around work practice and engineering controls, personal protective equipment. It's a much more complex approach than it was previously.

John McDermott:
Lindsay, are there major sort of changes for those of us who work in the construction industry?

Lindsay Cook:
Well, I think the construction industry will see a big impact from this standard, John, particularly for folks who do have silica in their operations. As we said earlier, the medical surveillance, by and large, is new to the construction industry. Construction folks have used respirators over the years, but this will introduce a much more structured approach. We now have to have data to make decisions on how and where those respirators are used.

Lindsay Cook:
There will also be some discussion of how we regulate or keep folks out of the area where this work is going on, so that we minimize exposure to folks that aren't involved in the process. So, there will be some pretty significant changes on how this issue is handled in constructions.

John McDermott:
I want to follow up on something that's ... When we think about silica, are there ways to clean up silica?

Lindsay Cook:
There are some fairly well-established methods for not necessarily cleaning it up but minimizing the exposure. Two of the most common are ventilation, specifically local exhaust ventilation, using a HEPA vacuum associated with the tool to collect the dust that's being generated. The other effective technique is using what we call wet methods, a spray injection, or something of that nature, to minimize the dust that's generated. Those can have a big impact on the amount of silica that's released from the same process.

John McDermott:
When we think about the construction industry, we know that construction workers, obviously, they are right at the front line, and dust is going to be just all over. So, when it comes to actually removing dust from clothing and stuff like that, are there things that people need to be aware of?

Lindsay Cook:
Yes. If folks are exposed to silica dust, concrete cutting, cutting cement board, those types of things, there is a prohibition in just using compressed air to clean clothing. Unless you use it as part of a system, either incorporated with a vacuum system that captures the dust as it's removed, or a walk-through chamber. There's some laminar flow chambers that have now been developed. You can walk in one side wearing your respirator, have the dust blown off and collected, and walk out cleaned on the other side.

John McDermott:
So the days of when we used to just take the old air compressor hose and sort of blow it all ... that's, we're gone. Those are in the past now.

John McDermott:
Lindsay, what are some of the top challenges or issues that EHMS practitioners are facing with this new silica ruling?

Lindsay Cook:
Well, one of the key issues is making sure you have a fundamental and thorough understanding of what's in the standard. This is one of the more complex standards that OSHA has issued in the health arena in a number of years. There are specific technical details on how these samples are to be collected, even details regarding the laboratory that analyzes your samples, so there's a lot of information to keep up with to make sure that you've got your ducks in a row, so to speak.

John McDermott:
Lindsay, thank you very much for your time today.

Lindsay Cook:
Thanks, John. It was great to be with you today.

John McDermott:
Thanks for watching Grainger Insights. For more information on the safety record, visit us at safety.grainger.com.

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