OSHA Proposes New Silica Exposure Standard

Oct. 20, 2014

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 stake-holders. Following the hearings, OSHA will publish a transcript of the hearings and make it available to the public in the rulemaking docket, and hearing participants will have an opportunity to submit additional evidence and comments.

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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 standard, and outreach by OSHA to stakeholders, including public stakeholder meetings, conferences and meetings with employer and employee organizations.

“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,” says 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permissible exposure limits (PELs) for crystalline silica in general industry, construction, and shipyards that are outdated, inconsistent between industries, and do not adequately protect worker health.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 http://www.osha.gov/silica.

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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. Each standard outlines when lift directors are required as well as what their role is. The OSHA Crane and Derrick Standard became effective in November 2010, according to Hank Dutton, crane and rigging training specialist with Travelers Risk Control. Dutton is in charge of crane and rigging training for Travelers Companies’ insured companies.

“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 GX Contractor at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014. “There are instances where a separate lift director is recommended-for example, during a two-crane lift.”

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 that 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.

OSHA states that when using non-standard hand signals, the signal person, operator, and the lift director (when there is one) must contact each other prior to the operation and agree upon the non-standard hand signals that will be used. Voice signals are to be agreed upon before using and must be effectively communicated.

Lift director duties also include developing a plan for multiple crane or derrick lifts. The plan must be made by a qualified person, who must have an engineer’s assistance if the qualified person determines this is needed, says Dutton. The lift plan must be directed by someone who is competent and qualified. The plan could also be implemented by a competent person assisted by one or more qualified persons. All workers involved should have a meeting with the competent and qualified persons involved.

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.

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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.