Everyday tasks at your construction site may expose you and your employees to harmful substances, like silica dust, that harm human health. OSHA has standards in place to protect construction workers from silica dust exposure — here are some steps you can take today to make sure your business is compliant and your employees are protected.
Silica, also known as quartz, is a common mineral that can be found in the landscaping, rock, masonry, granite, soil, sand and concrete at job sites in the construction industries. Exposure can occur during regular tasks:
When this mineral is drilled, ground or cut, it creates silica dust. The particles are invisible to the human eye and are respirable — they can be breathed into the lungs, creating scar tissue that impairs oxygen intake. Silica dust in the body can harm health even years after exposure, potentially causing conditions like:
Many of these conditions are incurable and may cause death, which is why following OSHA standards for silica dust exposure is essential for your crew's well-being.
OSHA regulations state that the exposure limit for silica dust is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air in an eight-hour shift. OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.1153 requires that employers stay within this limit by minimizing silica dust exposure and taking protective precautions.
Employers may use OSHA's control methods in Table 1 of the standard document that defines the applications when protective gear is and is not necessary. You can also measure your workers' exposure and use your own controls.
Whether you follow silica dust controls from OSHA or define your own, you must:
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