OSHA, silica containment & the bottom line.
the bottom line is your health and your employee’s health. But, there is also the financial bottom line
to think about. If you get a visit from
your friendly OSHA inspector and they find one “serious” violation the fine
they can levy on you is $12,934 (as of Jan. 2, 2018). If you fail to fix it, you’re looking at
$12,934 PER DAY beyond the date they gave you to have the violation fixed. If you decide to blow it off, you’re now
looking at $129,336. If you have more
than one violation, feel free to add these amounts PER VIOLATION.
Why is OSHA adamant about this? Well, they’re trying to curb the incidents of silicosis, “an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease.” Silicosis is a permanent condition caused by silica dust particles when they become trapped in the lung tissue. Over time they cause inflammation and scarring, and those two things limit the ability of the lungs to take in oxygen. It also puts you and your employees at a increased risk for diseases like lung cancer, COPD and kidney disease.
While finished stone products, engineered or natural aren’t hazardous, it’s the processes of cutting, grinding, polishing, etc., that creates the potentially dangerous exposure. Engineered stone countertops can contain over 90% silica where calcium-based stones contain little or no silica. Granite can contain up to 50% silica.
What can you do as a stone fabricator? The first thing to do is to become familiar with the types of stone you’re working with and then the type of work you are doing with those materials. Then download and look at OSHA’s Table 1 Specified Control Methods When Working With Materials Containing Crystalline Silica. This is a very helpful piece that will help you identify the methods required to control, contain and diminish silica exposure.
Some key takeaways are:
· Make sure your saws have a bespoke integrated water-delivery system.
· If you’re drilling, most tool manufacturers have inexpensive shrouds that are designed for the drill that will encapsulate the bit around the work area and provide a way to contain and remove the dust generated.
· Get a Table 1 compliant HEPA-rated vacuum
· Control the amount of time you or your employees are working in a silica-rich environment – plan for less the 4 hours per shift.
· Have APF-10 respirators on site (refer to Table 1)
· Establish, write and implement an exposure control plan. – include:
o Designating someone competent to implement this plan
o Offering medical exams (including chest x-rays and lung function tests) every 3 yrs for workers who must wear a respirator for 30+ days a year.
o Train workers on how to limit exposure and what exposure to silica can do.
o Keep records of the exposure the workers have to silica and their medical exams, if any, are provided.
· Don’t use compressed air or dry sweeping in non-ventilated areas.
OSHA is actively out in the field inspecting shops across the country. If you’re a member of the Stone Fabricator’s Alliance, you may have seen some of your colleagues tell about how they recently have had a visit from OSHA.
The compliance deadline was June 23, 2017 for the construction industry. For general industry and maritime the deadline is June 23, 2018. Hydraulic manufacturing is supposed to be compliant by June 23, 2018, but they have until June 23, 2021 for engineering controls.
DeFusco Industrial Supply has many of the tools and accessories you need to get into compliance from dust collection booths (wet and dry), disposable N95 facemasks, and HEPA wet/dry vacuums. Call us at 800-289-6834 if you have questions or would like to know about pricing and financing options.
DUST COLLECTION BOOTHS
This is by no means a comprehensive list of what is required or what you need to do, nor should it be considered a substitute for anything provided by OSHA. Do your own due diligence to protect you, your workers and your business.