Clean Response recently held a safety training for our team about new federal rules to protect workers from airborne silica exposure. The new rules will be phased in, but start to go into effect this year.
Silica, also known as quartz, is a common mineral found in many materials used in construction: soil, sand, concrete, masonry, rock, granite and landscaping materials.
Microscopic airborne silica that gets into the lungs can lead to scarring and swelling deep in the tissues; it is attributed to some lung cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Repeated exposures can add up to a total dose sufficient to trigger illness and disease.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), about 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and countertop manufacturing.
At Clean Response, we are concerned about worker and customer safety around demolition of concrete and other materials that may contain silica. We own HEPA filtration equipment and we recommend measures such as keeping surface areas wet during demolition or cutting (which dampens airborne particles). We also provide HEPA filtered respirators and train our field crew on properly venting work areas. We are in compliance with the new Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) set in revised OSHA rules, but we will continue to monitor this health concern and reinforce the importance of airborne silica containment.
Are you planning reconstruction or remodeling? Contact Clean Response for support on silica, asbestos or other possible hazardous material containment strategies. Visit Silica-Safe.org for commonly asked questions and resources specific to silica and the new OSHA rules.