OSHA’s Proposed Crystalline Silica Rule, As Used in Process Technology
October 28, 2014
I write this proposal to propose a solution to a recurring problem with crystalline silica: e.g. known as “respirable” particles, in the oil industry. Workers who inhale very small crystalline silica particles are at increased risk of developing serious silica related diseases. These tiny particles can penetrate deep into workers lungs and cause silicosis, an incurable and fatal lung disease. Crystalline Silica Exposure also puts workers at risk for developing lung cancer, other potentially debilitating respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.1
To improve worker protection, OSHA is proposing two new crystalline silica standards. The proposals are based on extensive review of scientific evidence, current industry consensus standards, and OSHA’s outreach, including stakeholder meetings, conferences, and meetings with employer and employee organizations.1-2(Figure 1)
Figure 1 Workers exposed to silica1
Statement of problem
OSHA’s current permissible exposure limits: e.g. PELs, for crystalline silica were adopted in 1971 and have not been updated since that time. They do not adequately protect workers; they are outdated, inconsistent and hard to understand.
Strong evidence shows that current PELs do not adequately protect worker health. PELs are formulas that are difficult for many employers to understand. The current PELs for construction and shipyard workers allow them to be exposed to risks that are twice as high as for workers in general industry. The proposed rule would provide consistent levels of protection for workers in all sectors covered by the rule.
About 2.2 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica in their workplaces. The majority of these workers, about 1.85 million, are in the construction industry. Exposures occur when workers cut, grind,...