AIHA Spells Out Silica Competent Person Skill Set

The new white paper from the AIHA Construction Committee's Silica Competent Person Subgroup will help construction companies use the approach OSHA recommends.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association® released a white paper titled "Recommended Skills and Capabilities for Silica Competent Persons," which describes the basic knowledge needed by a competent person to provide meaningful worker protection from silica. The document was prepared by the AIHA Construction Committee's Silica Competent Person Project Team.

It will be useful to construction companies' safety and health professionals, in particular small companies. OSHA's Advisory Committee for Construction Safety and Health has recommended that OSHA use the competent person approach for its upcoming proposed silica in construction rule, and the National Occupational Research Agenda construction goals for silica identified competent person training needs as an area for partnering and development, according to AIHA.

The white paper says a silica competent person must understand exposure limits, signs and symptoms of exposure, respiratory protection, sanitation, routes of exposure, how to determine whether silica is present through Safety Data Sheets, bulk sample analysis, or presumed silica content based on material checklists. In addition, it explains that competent persons should understand published exposure level ranges for common construction tasks including abrasive blasting dry, tuckpointing, surface grinding, and concrete mixing, and should understand how to implement engineering controls and how various types of respiratory protection work.

Another new and useful resource is a report from the Québec-based scientific organization IRSST (the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail) that analyzes construction workers' exposure to silica, based on a database of occupational exposure. The report identifies tasks and tools that most expose workers to silica and the job titles with the highest risk. Employees working underground and operators of heavy equipment for drilling tunnels are groups that could be exposed to concentrations exceeding the provincial exposure limit, the authors concluded. Cement finishers, bricklayers, drillers, semi-skilled workers, and skilled operators of heavy equipment used for milling roads also are exposed, on average, to levels above or near the limit.

The report is available at http://www.irsst.qc.ca/en/-irsst-publication-construction-workers-exposure-to-crystalline-silica-literature-review-and-analysis-r-771.html.

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