OSHA Proposes New Silica Safety Standard

June 25, 2014
Gx Bug Web

OSHA has announced a proposed rule aimed at curbing lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease in America’s workers. The proposal seeks to lower worker exposure to crystalline silica, which kills hundreds of workers and sickens thousands more each year.

An initial round of public hearings on the proposed rule concluded on April 4, 2014. OSHA will study the comments, and may hold more hearings. The proposed rule has already incorporated many suggestions provided by industry groups, small businesses, scientists, and other stakeholders. Following the hearings, OSHA will publish a transcript of the hearings and make it available to the public in the rulemaking docket. Hearing participants will have an opportunity to submit additional evidence and comments.

Master everything from OSHA regulations, to high-tech safety equipment in this FREE Special Report: Construction Safety Topics That Can Save Lives. Download it now!

Once the full effects of the rule are realized, OSHA estimates that the proposed rule would result in saving nearly 700 lives per year and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis annually. Exposure to airborne silica dust occurs in operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing of concrete, brick, block, and other stone products and in operations using sand products, such as in glass manufacturing, foundries, and sand blasting. Wet sawing of concrete practically eliminates worker exposure to silica dust, as opposed to dry sawing.

The proposal is based on extensive review of scientific and technical evidence, consideration of current industry consensus standards, and outreach by OSHA to stakeholders, including public stakeholder meetings, conferences, and meetings with employer and employee organizations.

Add Grading & Excavation Contractor Weekly to  your newsletter preferences and keep up with the latest articles on grading and excavation: construction equipment, insurance, materials, safety, software, and trucks and trailers.    

“The proposed rule uses common-sense measures that will protect workers’ lives and lungs-like keeping the material wet so dust doesn’t become airborne,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “It is designed to give employers flexibility in selecting ways to meet the standard.”

The proposed rulemaking includes two separate standards-one for general industry and maritime employment, and one for construction. OSHA currently enforces 40-year-old permissible exposure limits (PELs) for crystalline silica in general industry, construction, and shipyards that are outdated, inconsistent between industries, and do not adequately protect worker health. The proposed rule brings protections into the 21st century.

The proposed rule includes a new exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica and details widely used methods for controlling worker exposure, conducting medical surveillance, training workers about silica-related hazards, and recordkeeping measures. Additional information on the proposed rule, including a video and procedures for submitting comments can be found at www.osha.gov/silica.

So You Think You’re a Lift Director
OSHA and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) have relatively new requirements and definitions for lift directors who are to be present at crane and derrick operations on construction projects. The OSHA Crane and Derrick Standard became effective in November 2010, according to Hank Dutton, crane and rigging training specialist for risk control with the Travelers Indemnity Co.

“Prior to 2010, OSHA did not mention the lift director,” says Dutton. “The old crane standard was a few pages long, and as of 2010 it is 221 pages long.

“There needs to be a lift director, and with small crews he might be the crane operator,” Dutton told Grading & Excavation Contractor at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014. “There are instances where a separate lift director is required-for example, during a two-crane lift. If hand signals and voice directions are given, the lift director must be present.”

OSHA defines a lift director as a competent and qualified person. A competent person means one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees-and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate such hazards. A qualified person means someone who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated the ability to resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.

Lift director duties under OSHA include giving hand signals per the standard method, and the rule defines the hand signals with diagrams. Voice signals are to be agreed upon before using, and must be effectively communicated.

Under ASME standards, the lift director directly oversees the work being performed by a crane and the associated rigging crew. The lift director must be present at the job site, and must be authorized to stop crane operations if alerted to unsafe conditions. The crane operator is to consult with the lift director about adverse conditions.

The lift director, ASME says, is to ensure that personnel understand their responsibilities and the associated hazards. The lift director is responsible for the consequences if he overrules an operator’s concerns. The lift director must inform the crane operator of load weights and locations for placement of the load. And the lift director must obtain a crane operator’s verification that a load does not exceed the crane’s rated capacity.

ASME also defines a site supervisor. The site supervisor exercises supervisory control over the work site where the crane is being used and over the work being performed on that site. In some situations, the site supervisor and the lift director may be the same person, ASME says.