With OSHA issuing a final rule regarding workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica, it’s important to ensure you’re taking proper steps so your project site is safe for everyone. Respirable crystalline silica is present in many construction materials, such as concrete, brick, mortar, granite, and sand, which means just about everyone involved can come into contact with it. Research has shown that prolonged and excessive exposure to crystalline silica — which is kicked up into the air when workers chip, cut, drill, or grind objects that contain it — increases many health risks, including silicosis and other respiratory illnesses.

 

Since keeping workers safe is vital, American Spray Technologies has put together five important things to know about the new silica dust regulations and how to mitigate the hazards it presents. 

 

Written Respirator Program

OSHA requires a written respiratory program to comply with this new standard. Per OSHA Respirable Crystalline Silica in Construction Regulation – 29 CFR 1926.1153, all respiratory protection programs must include detailed, written, and worksite-specific procedures for many situations, including:


  • Assessment of exposure to identify any airborne hazards that are present.
  • Selection of respirators based on which hazards have been identified.
  • Medical evaluations of workers to validate workers are able to safely wear selected respirators.
  • Any use of respirators.
  • Proper maintenance, cleaning, and storage of all respirators.
  • Verifying air quality levels if using respirators with air supplies.
  • Training and fit testing of workers.
  • Evaluation of respirator program.

 

Respiratory Program Administrator

After creating a written respirator program, an administrator needs to oversee its implementation at the job site. They will be in charge of evaluating all elements of the program regularly, ensuring their proper implementation. All records, tests, and inspection reports must be kept up-to-date. Any respirators that are used need to be evaluated to ensure they are still in proper condition to be used for the conditions present at the construction site. All of these elements must be recorded in detail, including evaluation notes, issues that have been found, and any corrective measures that have been taken.

 

The administrator should watch and speak with anyone using a respirator to make sure they are using it properly, they understand how to use and maintain it, and that the respirator is working as intended. For silica work sites, the program administrator can also be the silica competent person that the silica regulations require. It is not necessarily required for this person to occupy both roles, but it can make the administration and evaluation of the program easier.

 

Medical Evaluation

It is required by OSHA for employers to provide a respirator medical evaluation to any workers before they are able to wear a respirator. This evaluation will usually include a questionnaire asking about medical conditions, workplace conditions and hazards that may affect a worker’s ability to wear a respirator safely. Once this questionnaire is completed, a licensed healthcare professional will evaluate the responses and determine if the worker is medically fit to wear the class of respirator in question. An employer will be required to reevaluate a worker’s ability to wear a respirator safely in the event of:


  • Any signs or symptoms that can affect a worker’s ability to use a respirator safely.
  • A physician, supervisor, or the respiratory program administrator asks for a reevaluation.
  • Fit testing or program evaluation indicate a reevaluation is needed.
  • Any changes to workplace conditions that put increased burden on a worker, such as changes in temperatures, level of exertion required, or any equipment needs.

 

Fit Testing Respirators

Tight-fitting facepiece respirators are available in two styles — negative pressure (elastomeric and disposable) and positive pressure (powered air and supplied air). All of these respirators have to be fit tested to make sure there is a good seal between the user’s face and the respirator. There are two basic types of fit testing allowed by OSHA currently, Qualitative (which gives a pass/fail result) or Quantitative (which provides a numerical result).


While either fit testing method can be used for most types of respirator, full-face negative pressure respirators must be fit tested using quantitative methods. Respirator fit testing is to be repeated on an annual basis at a minimum, if the user changes the make or model of respirator, or if the user has any physical changes that would affect fit, such as significant weight gain or dental work.

 

Where to Learn More

While this blog post is a brief and general overview of proper respirator use, it is important for all employers and employees to familiarize themselves with the full regulations put in place by OSHA (29 CFR 1910.134). You can also learn more about beginning a respiratory program with this handy guide from 3M.

 

 

When you’re in need of a drywall spray rig that you can depend on, look no further than American Spray Technologies. With options for custom rigs, trailer mounted rigs, skid mounted rigs, electric rigs, and portable Kodiak machines, we’ve got everything you need. Call today at 877-833-4342 to get started!