What does a penny have to do with silica dust?
Believe it or not, the amount of silica that can fit onto Abraham Lincoln’s forehead on the penny is enough silica to be fined for overexposure according to OSHA standards. Let’s dive into the specifics of the regulations…
On June 23, 2018, OSHA began enforcing the silica standard for general, construction, and maritime industries. As a result of OSHA’s National Emphasis Program in February of 2020, roadway construction, especially milling, became heavily targeted for silica dust exposure.
Crystalline silica (SiO2) refers to a group of minerals composed of silica and oxygen. Found in asphalt, concrete, and rocks, crystalline silica is released into the air when these materials are abraded, crushed, milled, mined, or transported. Inhaling the respirable crystalline silica dust puts workers at risk for serious health problems– difficulty breathing, COPD, lung disease, and silicosis.
OSHA’s new permissible exposure limit standard was set to 50 micrograms per cubic meter, with an active level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter, over the course of an eight-hour workday. This new standard is 5x lower than the previous standard.
Visualizing this standard can be challenging, which is why the penny example can help give us perspective. The permissible exposure limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter over an eight-hour workday is equivalent to placing saccharin, like the artificial sweetener, Sweet’n Low, on the area of Abraham Lincoln’s forehead on a penny, and then placing that penny in a 10- by 10-foot room. By exceeding the amount of saccharin on Lincoln’s forehead in a 10 by 10 feet room, with the equivalent of crystalline silica in a workplace, you are in violation of the OSHA silica standard guidelines.
Another way to visualize just how significant a small amount of silica dust is, OSHA’s permissible exposure limit of silica dust, over the course of an 8-hour workday, is equivalent to emptying just that entire packet of Sweet’n Low over an entire football field! Overexposure puts employees at risk for severe health issues and makes your company liable.
How do I prevent exposure to silica dust on my construction site?
NeSilex was designed to be a simple silica solution, exceeding all OSHA guidelines and requirements. When you add NeSilex to your existing water spray down systems, you are prioritizing the safety of your employees while reducing dust. Learn more about NeSilex as the most effective silica dust suppressant here!