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Have You Heard About the New OSHA Silica Standard? How Is Your Contractor Protecting You?

Posted on Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Have You Heard About the New OSHA Silica Standard? How Is Your Contractor Protecting You?

What is silica, and is your facility at risk?


Silica dust is a microscopic, airborne mineral, and is the byproduct of grinding, cutting, or drilling a variety of materials you would find on a typical construction site. Masonry, concrete, and rock, to name just a few.

Why is it so dangerous, even being called the “new asbestos”?

Unlike common nuisance dust that can be filtered out by something as simple as a dust mask, silica is an unseen danger. And, once it comes into contact with your lungs, it can cause a host of serious and irreversible health problems, including:

  • Cancer
  • Silicosis (scarring of the lungs, creating respiratory issues)
  • Progressive Massive Fibrosis (actual petrification of the lung tissue)
  • Tuberculosis
  • Kidney disease
  • ...and more

Here’s What You Need to Know About the OSHA Silica Standard

Because of the increasing awareness of these massive health risks (and the cases of subsequent fatalities every year), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) stepped in and created new standards to protect the workforce. One set of standards is for those in the construction industry, and the other for those in “General Industry” and “Maritime.”

Both sets took effect on June 23, 2016, and those in the construction industry had exactly one year to be in compliance.

There are a number of key provisions outlined in OSHA’s standards (you can review them all here). In short, the purpose is to reduce exposure to silica on the jobsite, and engineer controls that protect, inform, and evaluate the medical condition of at-risk workers.

What Safety Standards and Controls Should Your Industrial Flooring Contractor Implement?

For those in the commercial and industrial painting and flooring industry, silica exposure is a real risk. Industrial flooring services in particular often involve cutting, grinding, and even demolishing materials that release silica when disturbed.

Adherence to the new OSHA standard should be one of your contractor’s top priorities, both for their team’s well being and yours. An emphasis on maintaining proper work hygiene and investing in proactive measures must be evident in their work and communication, minimizing and preventing risks before they have the chance to develop.

Does your contractor meet this criteria?

  • Completes medical evaluations of their crew to ensure that they are capable of wearing a respirator. Respirator fit tests are also conducted to confirm that a proper seal is in place.
  • Respirators should progress from half-mask to full-mask with a positive airflow for the most protection.
  • Are vacuums with multi-stage filtration systems being used? Remember, pre-filter removes larger debris, mid-filter removes fine particles, and HEPA filters remove ultra-fine particles. All of our industrial flooring vacuums are equipped with the HEPA filtration attachment.
  • Written exposure control plans should be provided, articulating the systems that are put in place to protect the environment for the sake of everyone involved.
  • A focus on ongoing education, training, and preparation is essential. Safety is a team sport, and your contractor should provide not only cutting-edge equipment, but also the knowledge needed to protect you and each other.

Can Your Contractor Knowledgeably Explain the OSHA Silica Standard, and How They’re Protecting Those In Your Facility?

These standards are absolutely necessary; maintaining a safe worksite is a moral (and legal) obligation.

Should you have any further questions, we encourage you to reach out to us at Kaloutas. It would be our pleasure to discuss your project goals (and concerns) here in New England.

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Kaloutas is New England's premier contractor for commercial & industrial painting, flooring, and related services. Established in 1987, Kaloutas has become a trusted resource for general contractors, facilities managers, and building owners from Connecticut to Maine. Our team prides itself on high quality workmanship, jobs done on time & budget, and tackling complex projects that other contractors don't have the experience or resources to handle. Contact us today for a painting or flooring estimate, or give us a call at 978-532-1414 to learn more.

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