Although respirable silica dust has been causing diseases such as silicosis for thousands of years, true regulations to control worker exposure were never discussed until the last few decades. It is important to understand not only what current silica dust regulations are in place, but also what methods can be used to both comply with regulations and ensure maximum safety.
In 1994, OSHA listed silica dust as a priority for rulemaking, recognizing the occupational hazard this silent killer presented.1 In 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified silica as a known human carcinogen. Coincidingly, a federal campaign was kickstarted coined “It’s Just Not Dust” the same year. This campaign strove to decrease workplace incidence of silicosis as a result of respirable crystalline silica.2
In October of 1998, OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) formed a Silica Work Group. The goal of this work group was to identify sources of respirable crystalline silica, as well as possible solutions to eradicate the threat.1 However, it was not until 2013 that OSHA announced a proposed rule to protect the workers that are exposed to crystalline silica dust. In March of 2014, OSHA began conducting public hearings for labor advocates, health experts, and experts in the industries exposed to silica dust to testify on the proposed guidelines.1 After a long tedious process, on March 24, 2016, OSHA finally issued their guidelines to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust. OSHA began enforcing the silica standard for the construction industry specifically on September 23, 2017.1
OSHA began enforcing the silica standard for general and maritime industries on June 23, 2018. As a result of the revisions to OSHA’s National Emphasis Program in February of 2020, roadway construction activities, especially milling, will be heavily targeted for silica dust exposure. This includes highway, street, and bridge construction, among other construction activities. Coming up in the near future, hydraulic fracturing, as well as other operations in the oil and gas industries are required to implement dust controls by June 23, 2021.1
A Simple Solution to Comply with Regulations
As a result of the new industry standards in place in regards to silica dust, Chemtek developed the NeSilex formula in 2017. The revolutionary silica dust suppressant formula is easily integrated into dust-producing operations that use water to control dust.
On May 9, 2018, the magazine Asphalt Contractor recognized Chemtek’s NeSilex silica dust suppressant as one of the top 30 products in the industry of 2018.3 Chemtek is continuously working to provide NeSilex as a solution for silica dust control across multiple industries, from milling and sweeping to crushing and cutting.
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1 Status of Regulatory Efforts: Timeline. Work Safely with Silica. https://www.silica-safe.org/regulations-and-requirements/status-of-regulatory-efforts/timeline. Publishing date not available. Accessed July 1, 2019.
2 Status of Regulatory Efforts: History. Work Safely with Silica. https://www.silica-safe.org/regulations-and-requirements/status-of-regulatory-efforts/history. Publishing date not available. Accessed June, 27, 2019.
3 Introducing the 2018 Top 30 Editor’s Choice Awards. For Construction Pros. https://www.forconstructionpros.com/asphalt/article/20999499/introducing-the-2018-top-30-editors-choice-awards. Published May 7, 2018. Accessed July 1, 2018.