On March 25, 2016, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration published new guidelines for silica dust, officially known as the respirable crystalline silica construction standard. This rule became enforceable for construction on September 23, 2017, and construction businesses are now expected to comply with the new guidelines.
OSHA is still carefully evaluating all good faith efforts taken by employers to meet the new construction silica standard in the first 30 days of enforcement. Here we look at what the new silica standard means for construction businesses and contractors, as well as what it means for homeowners looking to hire safe and high-quality contractors.
Why the New Silica Dust Standard?
Exposure to silica dust is a risk where silica-containing materials such as concrete, drywall, some countertops or stone are drilled, cut, ground or crushed. This will affect the construction industry, including construction workers that work in home remodeling and building.
Silica is a mineral that in the crystalline state can cause significant health effects. People exposed to crystalline silica dust over the long term can develop silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease. OSHA says that health problems caused by exposure to silica dust killed more workers in 2014 than fire or structural collapse. While silica dust created during home remodeling is not said to pose a threat to homeowners, you may want to reduce the risk of exposure to silica dust if you are living at home during your remodel, as well as ensuring workers in your home are protected from silica exposure.
What Is the New OSHA Silica Dust Rule?
The OSHA Silica standard lowers the permissible exposure level of silica dust in the air from 250 micrograms of respirable Silica per cubic meter to 50 micrograms. This is measured and averaged over an 8-hour day.
This new standard means that construction businesses and contractors need to follow stricter procedure to control dust – including water and vacuum systems to capture silica dust, protective clothing and respirators, and enclosing high-risk areas while work is being done.
Choose A Contractor Who Is Following the OSHA Silica Rule
If you’re a homeowner undergoing a remodel or looking for a new contractor, it’s important to check that your contractor is following these new standards. Talk to your contractors about the methods they are using to reduce silica dust exposure for their workers and the members of your household.
High-quality contractors use a variety of dust control methods, including:
- Doing as much work under controlled shop conditions and bringing finished pieces on site
- Isolating the work area with tarps or plastic walls (this also protects your home)
- Equipping workers with protective clothing and masks or respirators
- Using tools with local ventilation like dust shrouds, HEPA filters, and vacuums.
- Wetting surfaces to prevent spread of dust
- Using dust monitoring as well as control
With the standard already in effect, ensure your business or contractor is meeting the new OSHA silica dust standard for safer and high-quality home remodeling