SILICA—It’s Not Just Dust!

On June 23rd, the new OSHA began enforcing new silica standards for general industry.  Are you ready?

Silica can be found in the amorphous and crystalline state, the main difference is the crystalline state has atoms arranged in a repeating pattern. Crystalline silica mainly is found in the forms of quartz, cristobalite and tridymite.

Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in the earth’s crust. Materials like sand, stone, concrete, and mortar contain crystalline silica. It is also used to make products such as glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks, and artificial stone.

Respirable crystalline silica – very small particles at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand you might find on beaches and playgrounds – is created when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, and crushing stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar. Activities such as abrasive blasting with sand; sawing brick or concrete; sanding or drilling into concrete walls; grinding mortar; manufacturing brick, concrete blocks, stone countertops, or ceramic products; and cutting or crushing stone result in worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica dust. Industrial sand used in certain operations, such as foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), is also a source of respirable crystalline silica exposure. According to OSHA, about 2.3 million people in the U.S. are exposed to silica at work.
Workers who inhale these very small crystalline silica particles are at increased risk of developing serious silica-related diseases, including health effects such as silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney disease.

To better protect workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica, OSHA issued two new respirable crystalline silica standards: one for construction, and the other for general industry and maritime. OSHA began enforcing most provisions of the standard for construction on September 23, 2017, and will begin enforcing most provisions of the standard for general industry and maritime on June 23, 2018.
The new PEL is 50 µg/m3 with an action level of 25 µg/m3. These values will take in consideration all forms of crystalline silica (the sum of all types of crystalline silica present in the work atmosphere collected in the air sample).

For more information on silica exposure in the workplace or to schedule an air sampling project, contact John Frazer at 304-303-3110.

 John Frazer, Ph.D., CSP
Industrial Extension Engineer

Bio for John to be inserted here

Have a question? Let us help you!

6 + 7 =

Workplace Safety and the Dreaded Flu

This month’s safety tip provides information on the basic precautions that can be taken to help reduce the spread of seasonal flu in the workplace.  Although the flu vaccine’s effectiveness varies from year to year, it can be lifesaving for those at increased risk according to the Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The flu vaccine can:

  • keep you from getting flu,
  • make the flu less severe if you do get it, and
  • keep you from spreading flu to your co-workers, family, and other people.

In fact, the CDC has updated guidance for protecting individuals from seasonal flu.  Refer to the CDC website for updates on the most recent seasonal flu vaccine.  Every year the vaccine is revised to protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common this season. Pandemic flu remains a concern for employers and workers.  A pandemic can occur at any time and can be mild, moderate, or severe.  Although the pandemic H1N1 flu in 2009 was considered by CDC to be mild, it created significant challenges for employers and workers and showed that many workplaces were not prepared.  The following precautions identified below give a baseline for infection controls during a seasonal flu outbreak, but may not be enough to protect workers during a pandemic:

  • Get vaccinated! Vaccination is the most important way to prevent the spread of the flu.
  • Stay at home if you are sick. The CDC recommends that workers who have a fever and respiratory symptoms stay at home until 24 hours after their fever ends (100 degrees Fahrenheit [37.8 degrees Celsius] or lower), without the use of medication. Not everyone who has the flu will have a fever. Other symptoms could include a runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve(s). Throw tissues into a “no-touch” wastebasket.
  • Clean your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • When using soap and water, rub soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds, rinse hands with water, and dry completely.
  • If soap and water are not available, use of an alcohol-based hand rub is a helpful interim measure until hand washing is possible. When using an alcohol-based hand rub, apply liquid to palm of hand, cover all surfaces of the hands with the liquid, and rub hands together until dry.
  • Keep frequently touched common surfaces (e.g., telephones, computer equipment, etc.) clean.
  • Try not to use a coworker’s phone, desk, office, computer, or other work tools and equipment. If you must use a coworker’s equipment, consider cleaning it first with a disinfectant.
  • Avoid shaking hands or coming in close contact with coworkers and others who may be ill.
  • Stay in shape. Eat a healthy diet. Get plenty of rest, exercise, and relaxation.
  • Speak with your doctor and find out if you are in a high-risk category for seasonal flu (e.g., elderly, pregnant women, small children, persons with asthma, etc.).
  • Participate in any training offered by your employer.

John Frazer, Ph.D., CSP
Industrial Extension Engineer

Bio for John to be inserted here

Have a question? Let us help you!

5 + 6 =