The the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has finally sent its comprehensive rule governing worker exposure to silica dust to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review.
A proposed rule until now, the silica guidelines’ pending approval by OSHA will make them law.
Silicosis is the lung disease the rule is trying to curtail. While neither I or anyone I know has ever heard of it, silicosis can be fatal. Evidence suggests that the disease is rare, however, and fatalities have declined since its identification in 1968.
The OSHA guidelines would affect all trades which involve sand blasting, rock drilling or ceramic and glass manufacturing. From a construction industry viewpoint, the silica rule certainly applies to folks working in almost any capacity with concrete and masonry. The rule might also affect those in the business of manufacturing or applying drywall and other synthetic products such as siding materials.
In the grand picture, those in the field will not be overly burdened as silica dust control measures boil down to wearing a half-face respirator and using water or vacuums to dampen dust exposure. Silica dust particles are not super fine like asbestos so it is believed that minimal protection (paper mask) is adequate.
The largest significance will be felt administratively. OSHA guidelines require documentation, reporting, logs, control readings, and further documentation. This burden will serve to keep construction safety and legal departments at the office longer starting in 2017 when the rule is expected to be in effect.