The New OSHA Standard on Silica and Respirable Crystalline Silica

silica crystalline banner

To protect workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica in the workplace OSHA issued a new silica standard in 2016. This resource page will touch on the key points of the standard then provide you with links to helpful resources for additional information. If you are new to the standard or just need more information we suggest you start with OSHA’s main silica page. Their page provides a great overview and includes links to dive further into the information.

As always, Quest Safety Products is available to help you protect your workers in any environment. We understand the dangers your workers face and the safety products available to keep they safe and productive. Let us know how we can help you comply with the new silica standard. Also, for information on silica or any safety topic check out our partner Safeopedia.com.

Regulation Standards Pages

Dates For Enforcement

Both regulations took effect on June 23, 2016 but will be enforced in stages:

Construction will be enforced beginning September 23, 2017

General Industry and Maritime will be enforced beginning June 23, 2018

Key Points

The standard is more than just a new PEL. It includes engineering controls, a new PEL, record keeping, medical surveillance, written exposure control plans, training, and more. For the construction industry, Table 1 of the new standard identifies 18 common construction activities and the controls which are required for each activity, along with the necessary respiratory protection. The body of the standard and Appendix A specifies the requirements for sampling and analyzing jobsite air samples. Appendix B specifies the medical surveillance guidelines.

Prior to this standard the PEL was 100 µg/m3 for general industry and 250 µg/m3 for construction. With this standard the PEL for crystalline silica has been reduced to 0.05 mg/m3 (or 50 ug/m3) across all states and industries. There is also a new “Action Limit” of 0.025 mg/m3 (or 25 ug/m3). Employers whose employees have exposures exceeding the action limit, but not equaling or exceeding the PEL, will be required to comply with certain parts of the regulation.

Industries Impacted

  • Construction
    • Sandblasting
    • Jack hammering
    • Rock drilling, cutting, chipping or polishing
    • Brick or tile cutting and sawing
    • Concrete drilling, sawing, grinding and polishing
    • Tunneling
    • Demolition
    • Asphalt milling
    • Tuckpointing
  • Stone countertop fabrication
  • Diatomaceous earth processing
  • Pottery production
  • Foundries
  • Work on linings of rotary kilns and cupola furnaces
  • Mining
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Steel
  • Stone cutting
  • Hydraulic fracturing

Silica Health Concerns

OSHA states that approximately 2.3 million people in the U.S. are exposed to silica at work. The majority of these people work in construction. Workers who inhale these very small crystalline silica particles are at increased risk of developing serious silica-related diseases, including:

  • Silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability and death
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Kidney disease
  • Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) (Black Lung Disease)
  • Simple Pneumoconiosis can progress into Progressive Massive Fibrosis
  • Emphysema
  • Pulmonary tuberculosis
  • Chronic renal disease

Silica Assistance from 3M

Watch 3M’s webinar to learn what’s new in the US OSHA silica regulation.

don garvey webcast

Technical PDFs available for download:

Check out 3M’s interactive guide to respirators:

Construction Silica Competent Person Course

This new half-day course will provide initial training for persons designated by their construction management to act as the Silica Competent Person for their site(s) or who want to learn more about the role of the competent person under the new OSHA Construction Regulation (29 CFR 1926.1153) for Respirable Crystalline Silica. For more details click on the flyer image below.

Topics discussed:

  • Understanding the main elements of 29 CFR 1926.1153
  • Understanding regulations elements and applying them to jobsite
    specific applications
  • Defining the roles, responsibilities, expectations and limitations of
    both the silica competent person and a qualified person within their
    company program
  • Suggested skills and capabilities for the Silica Competent Person per
    the American Industrial Hygiene Association White Paper

For more details on respiratory protection visit the 3M Center for Respiratory Protection

3m respiratory program

Key Resources

Important: When consulting online resources always consider the year the information was released. General information on silica and engineering controls may still be valid but always refer to OSHA’s 2016 standard.