OSHA New Rule Aims at Reducing Silica Dust Exposure

In September 2017, OSHA enacted a new rule to help protect employees who are exposed to crystalline silica which is a common mineral found in the earth’s crust.  This material is found in many elements like sand, stone, concrete and mortar. Crystalline Silica is also used to make glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks and artificial stone.

The goal of this ruling is to protect individuals who work with these elements indoors or outdoors for more than four hours. These protocols, which have been put in place, are to help reduce the possibility of the employee inhaling respirable crystalline silica. These are very small particles that are 100 times smaller than sand that you’d find on a beach or at a playground. If an employee is exposed and inhales these particles often, they are at an increased risk of developing Lung Cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and or Kidney disease. Currently, there are approximately 2.3 million people in the US who are exposed to silica at work. Do you have a Silica Exposure Control Plan in place in your work environment?

Silica is created when one is cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling and or crushing stone, rock concrete or brick materials. The dust particles are inhaled into one’s lungs.  If your employees have a work practice of four hours shifts or less, plus operate and maintain tools with integrated water delivery systems with manufacture specified flow rates to feed water to the blade, then you are not required to put in additional measures to control silica particles.

OSHA has set these protocols if an employee is not using a water element with their cutting. According to OSHA, employers who do not use control methods must:

  • Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it may be at or above an action level of 25 μg/m3 (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an eight-hour day.
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit of 50 μg/m3, averaged over an eight-hour day.
  • Use dust controls to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL.
  • Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL.

“OSHA estimates that the Final Rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The Rule is projected to provide net annual benefits of as much as $7.7 billion to society in terms of reduced costs associated with preventing and treating silica-related illnesses.”

HB NEXT is here to serve construction firms as they navigate these new protocols to ensure their employees are working in a safe environment. Do you have a Silica Exposure Control Plan? The Team at HB NEXT is here to assist or write your plan for you to keep your firm OSHA compliant. From training to jobsite inspections, the HB NEXT Team can eliminate situations which will cause OSHA penalties and fines for non-compliance. With decades of experience in OSHA compliance, Ask HB NEXT to help your construction firm navigate this new ruling. Contact us today.



Construction Opportunities Soar

Construction industry opportunities break decades of records. It has taken many years for the economy to rebound from the economic downward spiral of 2008. This job market is expected to propel even further with the latest hurricane disasters bringing even a greater demand for home, commercial building, and restoration to the marketplace. Take a look at where the job market rests today.

Today, there are more unfilled jobs in the construction sector since February 2007. According to the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and NAHBS, the number of open construction jobs increased to 247,000 in August 2017. This is a 34% increase since August 2016. Based on a 12-month average basis, this increase equals a 2.7% rise in open positions. Over the last year, 80,000 jobs were added by home builders and industry employment increased by 710,000 jobs since the low of the Great Recession. Texas and Florida job opportunities are expected to rise scientifically with rebuilding efforts due to Harvey and Irma.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found the not seasonally adjusted (NSA) national construction unemployment rate was 4.7% in September, which is down 0.5% from a year ago and is the second lowest September rate on record behind the 4.6% rate in September 2000. Construction unemployment rates were also down in 41 states on a year-over-year basis while rates rose in nine states, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis. Furthermore, the construction industry employed 173,000 more workers than in September 2016.

The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates are

  1. Colorado, 2.3%
  2. Nebraska, 2.4%
  3. North Dakota, 2.5%
  4. Idaho, 3.1%
  5. Massachusetts and Wyoming (tie), 3.3%

The states with the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates are

  1. Pennsylvania and Rhode Island (tied), 6.3%
  2. Illinois, 6.7%
  3. Connecticut, 6.8%
  4. New Mexico, 8.2%
  5. Alaska, 10.4%

The outlook for construction job opportunities is exploding at the collegiate level as well. Virginia Tech held a job fair for their spring graduates in which construction firms were invited to meet the graduates. The response was so great, Virginia Tech had to turn away hiring firms due to capacity limits. During the job fair, each construction degree graduate received a minimum of five employment offers. Many people may not think of universities offering construction degrees but those fields on are the rise.

As the opportunities continue to expand in the construction industry, so does the training needs of each employee, contractor, and sub-contractor in the areas of safety and compliance. HB NEXT brings decades of experience to these employees and firms as they grow. The regulations and recordkeeping to keep projects compliant can be overwhelming and very costly if ignored. “At HB NEXT, our goal is to provide construction firms / general contractors with the tools to keep their employees safe, their records and data easily accessible in the field and help them stay compliant along their project. We do this over and over for firms nationwide and are very excited to see all of the opportunities opening up in the construction industry putting people back to work and enriching lives,” said Business Development Manager Tony Cann.

The HB NEXT Team offers expertise in safety orientations and safety manuals to kick off your next project with your new employees. HB NEXT is your number one partner for safety, environmental, training, software, and legal needs. Contact us today for more information.