Because of the work of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the CDC, and other construction work groups, many in the construction industry are now aware that prolonged and a high volume exposure to silica based products can cause life threatening diseases. These research and educational efforts have resulted in a better understanding of the threat, lead to better strategies to manage it, and resulted in safety protocols being utilized to protect workers.
A national advisory group of researchers, contractors, labor organizations, and governmental agencies with field experience using silica based products recently developed a model set of specifications for the purpose of educating end users and developing protocols to manage exposure. Drawn from the CPWR/NIOSH Engineering Control Work Group, the silica advisory task force drafted specifications over a 2 year period beginning in 2012. Those draft specifications were widely distributed for review and comment. They have now been finalized and issued for use by the industry. A copy of the specifications can be found here.
The document is designed to be a “best practice” reference guide that is to be utilized based on the specific needs of the contractor on a project. It contains various pieces of information, including particulars on using control technology, training, and the evaluation of protocols to achieve the best results.
The specifications, if studied carefully, clearly track the same health related parameters of those developed for purposes of controlling exposure to lead and asbestos. While the primary focus of the document is contractors and onsite project personnel, others involved in the construction industry can benefit from understanding these new specifications. In particular, it is a good resource to assist in complying with OSHA’s new silica regulations.
The working group responsible for the new specifications is part of an ongoing project that will undoubtedly develop better and more efficient methodologies for controlling silica exposure. As more is studied and learned, additional information will be offered. In the interim, its sufficient to point out that exposure to silica and silica based products can result in long term health hazards that should be taken very seriously; and this new document is a useful tool to help protect workers.