What is the OSHA Silica Dust Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL)?
The OSHA Silica Dust Permissible Exposure Limit (or PEL) went into effect on September 23, 2017. It gives businesses guidelines regarding permissible exposure limits for silica dust inhalation on a job site. The diminutive nature of those limits may surprise you.
Quick Article Summary
- New compliance date September 23, 2017
- PEL reduced from 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour shift to 50 micrograms
- Over 620,000 construction workers exposed to more than the 50 mg limit
The 2016 OSHA PEL Reduction
A big change occurred in 2016. OSHA updated the respirable crystalline silica Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) affecting the construction, manufacturing, and fracking industries. The PEL had been an average of 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour shift. The 2016 OSHA Silica Dust Permissible Exposure Limit reduces that average exposure limit to 50 micrograms per cubic meter. There are at least 1.86 million construction workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica with an estimated one-third exposed to more than 50 micrograms per cubic meter.
What is Silica Dust?
Crystalline quartz, the most common form of silica, is a component of sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar. One of the oldest known workplace hazards is silica dust inhalation. Chipping, cutting, drilling, and grinding materials that contain crystalline silica releases respirable crystalline silica particles into the air. The dust penetrates the lungs, stomach, and bones and results in silicosis and cancer. It’s also hazardous to inhale wood dust.
OSHA Silica Dust Permissible Exposure Limit: Prevention and Control
There are several ways to prevent dust particle inhalation. Protective respirators and dust masks prevent direct inhalation. Don’t eat in areas where the dust could settle and don’t expose food or tobacco products to dust. Be sure to wash your hands and face after dust exposure before eating. It’s also wise to park in areas where dust can’t settle on vehicles.
Equipment can also limit dust exposure. Bosch (who put together the infographics for this article) offers Speed Clean Bits as part of a comprehensive system that reduces dust while producing precise, clean holes in concrete. The system, also includes dust vacuums, dust shrouds, and dust collection attachments. It not only helps you hit those OSHA PEL limits, but it also reduces silica dust in construction zones.
The Bottom Line
The 2016 OSHA Silica Dust Permissible Exposure Limit (or OSHA PEL) reduces silica dust exposure from 250 to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Expect new tools and accessories, like Bosch’s Speed Clean Bits, and preventative measures to make their way to safety managers and job sites soon.
If OSHA’s new silica dust permissible exposure limit affects your industry, please be sure to take the required steps to reduce the chances of crystalline silica dust inhalation. If you’re a Pro, how do you manage dust for you and your crew? Tell us about it in the comments below—or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!