In 2018, OSHA released its latest set of silica dust control regulations geared towards reducing workers’ exposure. OSHA became concerned when they received 116 infractions, 80% of which were deemed severe, within the beginning of the same year. OSHA noted these serious violations were compounded by numerous other infringements. Taking in the reality of industrial yard spaces, the agency decided it was time to crack down on silica dust control. The Occupational Health and Safety magazine cited the updated program’s goals as the “[reduction of] new silicosis cases by 1,600 per year” and “[saving of] up to 700 lives.”
OSHA first began by tightening the PEL limit for carcinogenic particle to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. With that, silica dust control regulations begin even before a yard crosses the midway point to this regulatory maximum. Once an operation approaches 25 micrograms, OSHA expects businesses to take purposeful action to stop the spread of toxic particles. Therefore, not only has the overall PEL limit changed, but they expect an active effort at curtailing mounting silica to begin even sooner.
Tackling Silica Dust Control Regulations with A Culture of Workplace Safety
As a solution, these new guidelines emphasized healthier work practices. Respirators initially seemed like the easiest solution to silica dust control. If every worker is outfitted with his own respirator, then industrial yards and OSHA alike can rest assured that every worker is shielded on an individual level.
Yet in this latest update, OSHA clarified its stance, explaining how respirators must be “individually fitted and periodically refitted, and regularly maintained.” OSHA’s concern lies not with the ineffectiveness of respirators, but believes it is unrealistic to think respirators can be properly maintained. When it comes to silica dust control regulations, this reality combined with the discomfort workers experience, has turned OSHA to other safety strategies.
Instead, OSHA hoped to implement engineering controls aimed at creating better workplace safety. By lowering PEL limits, they are trying to encourage more thorough maintenance techniques on a more consistent basis.
One method OSHA suggested was the greater use of vacuums to remove particles directly before they enter the lungs. This type of silica dust control emphasizes isolating and removing particles, where other advised modes act as suppressants. Wetting is a popular technique in many industrial yards where dust is suppressed through regular applications of water to moisten and keep dust glued to the ground.
Beside workplace maintenance, OSHA also strongly encouraged adjustments to worker safety. Though they asserted respirators as not wholly effective, OSHA still highlighted them as a useful tactic in silica dust control “when engineering and work practice controls cannot maintain exposures at or below the PEL.” Thus, respirators are designated as the last ditch safety effort for workers.
Beyond equipment though, OSHA also introduced more regular medical surveillance for workers. According to the same Occupational Health and Safety article, employers are required to provide workers with full medical examinations, with particular attention to lung tests, every three years.
These Guidelines Are From 2018 … What Makes Them Relevant Today?
If this silica dust control program began in 2018, you may be wondering why OSHA’s guidelines have resurfaced. However, the answer lies in a historical event no one could have predicted. Just two years later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bringing business to a screeching halt, including industrial yards and OSHA’s implementation timeline.
With other concerns placed at the forefront, these new measures were placed on the backburner. Fast forward to today, as the world realizes a new normal, OSHA is re-focusing on its 2018 silica dust control regulations.
Failure To Comply Could Bring Detrimental Consequences
When OSHA released the updated silica dust control regulations, they also provided a timeline for industrial yards to implement these new measures. Employers were given a one-year period to lower their PEL levels before sending in a sample for laboratory analysis. Should employers fail to comply or show steps toward compliance, OSHA delivers hefty consequences.
Where the PEL limits have lowered, OSHA silica dust control’s fines have significantly increased. Offenses labeled “serious” have the potential to curry fines from a minimum of $5,000 to a maximum of $12,934 per violation. However, it doesn’t stop there. Industrial yards may then experience the same $12,934 fine each day the problems persist. Given that OSHA found 80% of infractions “serious,” businesses should be concerned with the potential for very heavy fines.
Can Businesses Balance Silica Dust Control Regulations with the Added Pressure Of OSHA Fines?
Regular containment strategies such as vacuuming, in operation as well as during clean-ups, brings additional components to an already large list of maintenance that industrial yards must maintain. Worse yet, methods like “wetting down” have been proven as ineffective long-term solutions. Though wetting provides brief silica dust control, it can actually dislodge particles, creating even more dust than when it was first applied. Combined with the expense of constantly running a wetting program, the use of precious water resources, and creating a problem worse than the original, only places more strain on your business.
These attempts at silica dust control can be overwhelming, and the looming presence of OSHA’s hefty fines only packs on the pressure. But what if there was a solution to meeting these regulations, avoiding the heavy fines, and making sure your workers are operating in a safe environment?
The Answer: Midwest’s Guided Self Apply® Dust Control Program®
For decades, Midwest has been using science-based knowledge, innovation and technology to deliver solutions with safety in mind. At Midwest, we’ve been prioritizing safety since we started. To read more about our commitment, check out one of our recent blog posts about how we far surpass all federal standards.
When you partner with us to tackle silica dust control regulations using our Guided Self Apply® Dust Control Program®, you receive a product that eliminates the overwhelming logistics of traditional methods while making extraordinary strides in your culture of workplace safety.
The goal of the Guided Self-Apply Dust Control Program is to provide convenience without surrendering quality. Using our patented EnviroKleen, Midwest provides a 1500 portable sprayer that can be customized to fit a pick-up truck, trailer or even a lift (as shown in the photo above). Weighing just 80 pounds, this sprayer administers product in a 9 foot width. Paired with our detailed application guide, our custom sprayer setup delivers silica dust control no matter the size of your operation so you can apply product exactly where you need it.
The program alleviates stress by allowing you to move as precisely as possible, and EnviroKleen delivers more effective results than any other silica dust control methods. Fueled by science, Midwest matches EnviroKleen to the natural needs of your aggregate so it can perfectly bind and lock fine particles 2-3 inches deep into its surface. This depth prevents displacement and erosion, which often result from other dust control methods.
Ultimately, Midwest’s Guided Self-Apply Dust Control Program provides the best method for tacking the OSHA silica dust control regulations. By bringing effectiveness and convenience to silica dust control, Midwest empowers businesses avoid OSHA’s hefty fines and attain an environment that prioritizes safety without adding more logistical obstacles to the mix. For more information on the program, contact Midwest today.