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Summary of requirements
  • Employers whose work involves silica must monitor operations for potential exposure, limit worker exposure to areas where silica is present, use dust controls, train workers, follow proper hygiene practices, provide respiratory protection, implement medical surveillance, and more.

Employers should:

  • Survey operations for potential exposure to silica. Employers can consult suppliers or examine safety data sheets (SDSs) to identify silica-containing materials that are or could be present in the workplace.
  • Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it may be at or above an action level of 25 µg/m3 (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an eight-hour day.
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, averaged over an eight-hour day.
  • Limit worker access to areas where they could be exposed above the PEL. To minimize any unnecessary employee exposures, the standard for general industry and maritime requires employers to establish a regulated area wherever an employee’s exposure to airborne concentrations of respirable crystalline silica is, or can reasonably be expected to be, in excess of the PEL. The standard requires that employers demarcate the boundaries of the regulated area (as separate from the rest of the workplace), post signs at the entrances to the regulated area, limit access to the regulated area, and provide an appropriate respirator to each employee or employee representative entering the regulated area.
  • Use dust controls to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL. In most cases, dust controls such as wet methods and ventilation can be used to limit exposure to silica. Note: The construction industry standard for silica at 1926.1153 includes Table 1 setting out controls for a specified list of tasks and specifying which of those tasks require respiratory protection to complement the controls in order to maintain exposures at or below the PEL.
  • Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL. Respiratory protection must be used in accordance with 1910.134, which includes annual fit testing, medical evaluation, training, selection, maintenance, as well as a written program.
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica where feasible alternatives are available.
  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers.
  • Offer medical exams — including chest X-rays and lung function tests — every three years for workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year.
  • Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure. This must follow the 1910.1200 Hazard Communication standard, as well as information on specific exposures, controls, and practices.
  • Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.