Occupational Health & Safety

New Emphasis Program Targets Crystalline Silica Hazards

OSHA has issued an agency-wide Instruction (CPL 03-00-007) that describes policies and procedures for implementing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to identify and reduce or eliminate the health hazards associated with occupational exposure to crystalline silica. The document establishes an NEP that expands and builds upon a 1996 Special Emphasis Program that provided guidance for targeting inspections of worksites with employees at risk of developing silicosis.

According to NIOSH, at least 1.7 million U.S. workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in a variety of industries and occupations, including construction, sandblasting, and mining. Silicosis, an irreversible but preventable disease, is the illness most closely associated with occupational exposure to the material, which also is known as silica dust. Occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica are associated with the development of silicosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, and airways diseases. These exposures may also be related to the development of autoimmune disorders, chronic renal disease, and other adverse health effects.

The new Instruction addresses targeting of worksites with elevated exposure to crystalline silica, as well as silica-related inspection procedures and compliance assistance. All Local Emphasis Programs for silica-related activities may remain in effect under this NEP, but significant changes to the 1996 SEP include detailed procedures for conducting silica-related inspections and new program evaluation procedures emphasizing follow-up inspections.

Other changes and/or expansions include:

  • Updated information for selecting sites for inspection, including an updated list of North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes for industries with documented employee exposures to respirable crystalline silica (as described in Appendix B);
  • Development of outreach programs by each Region and Area Office, emphasizing the formation of voluntary partnerships to share information on effective methods for reducing or eliminating employee exposure to crystalline silica; and
  • Guidance on calculating the permissible exposure limits (PELs) for dust containing respirable crystalline silica in Construction and Maritime, using the OSHA-adopted conversion factor of 0.1 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) per 1 million particles per cubic foot (mppcf), described in Appendix E.

To view the new Instruction, go to http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_03-00-007.pdf.

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