Training Tips for the New Silica Standard

Yesterday we discussed the new silica standard as it applies to general industry and maritime workplaces and focused on the requirements for a written exposure control plan. Today we will provide some tips for employee training under the new standard.

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Each employee covered by the general industry rule must be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of at least the following:

  • The health hazards associated with exposure to respirable crystalline silica;
  • Specific tasks in the workplace that could result in exposure to respirable crystalline silica;
  • Specific measures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure to respirable crystalline silica, including engineering controls, work practices, and respirators to be used;
  • The contents of this rule; and
  • The purpose and a description of the medical surveillance program.

This training must be specific for the workplace and task that each employee performs. According to OSHA, in general industry and maritime workplaces, training subjects would commonly include:

  • Signs that the controls may not be working effectively (e.g., visible dust emissions)
  • Work practices needed for the controls to function effectively (e.g., not opening windows near local exhaust sources, positioning the local exhaust hood directly over the exposure source)

Workers should know that when silica dust builds up in their lungs, they are at risk of developing serious lung diseases, including silicosis, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All of these health issues are preventable.

The key to preventing health problems is to stop the dust from traveling through the air, where they can breathe it in. Wet cutting is the most effective method for controlling silica dust generated during sawing and drilling because it controls the exposure at its source. Dust that is wet is less able to become or remain airborne.

When Should You Train?

Workers must be trained at the time they are assigned to a position involving exposure to respirable crystalline silica. While there is no annual refresher training requirement, additional training must be provided as often as necessary to ensure that workers know and understand respirable crystalline silica hazards and the protections available in their workplace.

Examples of when additional training would be required include:

  • When the employer asks an employee to perform a task that is new to that employee;
  • When the employer introduces new protections; and
  • When a worker is working in a manner that suggests he or she has forgotten what was learned in training.

Tips for Workers

Your workers should:

  • Be aware of the operations and jobs that create crystalline silica exposures.
  • Use engineering controls such as local exhaust ventilation and blasting cabinets.
  • Wear an N95 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-certified respirator or a Type CE abrasive-blast supplied-air respirator for abrasive blasting. Employers may provide respirators at the request of employees or let employees use their own respirators when respirators are not required under the silica standard.
  • Use available work practices such as water sprays to control dust exposures.
  • Vacuum the dust from work clothes when finished working in operations where silica dust is produced.
  • Remove work clothes and wash or shower before putting on street clothes.
  • Participate in training, exposure monitoring, and health screening and surveillance programs to monitor any adverse health effects caused by crystalline silica exposures.
  • Not smoke, since smoking adds to the lung damage caused by silica exposures.
  • Not eat, drink, or apply cosmetics in areas where silica dust is present, and should wash their hands and faces outside of dusty areas before eating, drinking, or applying cosmetics.

A copy of the respirable crystalline silica rule must be readily available to each employee.