GHS
GHS in North America and Europe – Where Are We Now?

Isn’t everyone using GHS for SDS’s and labels?

The answer to that is yes, and also no.

The European Union (EU)

In the EU, REACH [Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals] and GHS regulations [Regulation (EC) No. 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures, or the ‘CLP’] have already been implemented for many years. Most phases of the EU’s implementation plan have already been completed. There is one last remaining date that has not yet passed, however, with respect to SDS’s and labels.

SDS’s and labels for pure substances are required to fully compliant with REACH and the CLP. The last transition date for pure substance SDS’s was completed on December 1, 2012. Any SDS and label for a pure substance after that date, had to be fully compliant with REACH and CLP regulations, and display only GHS information.

SDS’s and labels for mixtures, for products placed on the market in the EU for the first time after June 1, 2015, are also required to be fully compliant with REACH and the CLP, and display only GHS information.

Mixture SDS’s and labels, only for products already placed on the market in the EU for the first time before June 1, 2015, however, may still show old system EU information. These SDS’s and labels for mixtures, may still display the EU’s old system of regulations [Directive 1999/45/EC], which made use of Risk (R) and Safety (S) phrases, as well as square shaped, orange and black symbols. These SDS’s and Labels, have the last remaining compliance date, which is coming up fast, of June 1, 2017. Any SDS and label after that date, will have to be fully compliant with REACH and CLP regulations.

The United States

In the United States, GHS regulations have also already been implemented for a few years as well. All effective completion dates have passed in the United States. All SDS’s, labels, written Hazard Communication programs, and training must be fully compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazcom 2012 GHS standard. The last transition date, for Employer workplace systems, was completed on June 1, 2016.

Canada

In Canada, the implementation of GHS into existing regulations is currently in only its first transition phase. Health Canada’s Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) (ie. the ‘Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System 2015’, or ‘WHMIS 2015’), were only fairly recently published in February of 2015.

In its first transition phase, Manufacturers, Importers and Distributors, may comply with either the existing WHMIS regulation (‘WHMIS 1988’ or the ‘Controlled Products Regulations / CPR’), or the new WHMIS 2015 GHS regulation. SDS’s in this phase, may still be called ‘Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS’s)’, and labels may still show the characteristic WHMIS 1988 hatched border and circular symbols. Phase 1 comes to an end on May 31, 2017, after which, Manufacturers and Importers must comply fully with the WHMIS 2015 regulation. SDS’s and labels then after that date, which are produced by Manufacturers and Importers, must display GHS information.

In its second transition phase, which begins on June 1, 2017, Distributors may still comply with either the existing WHMIS 1988 regulation, or the new WHMIS 2015 GHS regulation. Employers now will also comply with either regulation. Phase 2 comes to an end on May 31, 2018, after which, Distributors must comply fully with the WHMIS 2015 regulation. Any SDS’s and labels in a distribution warehouse, then, after that date, must display GHS information.

In its third and final transition phase, which begins on June 1, 2018, Employers may still comply with either the existing WHMIS 1988 regulation, or the new WHMIS 2015 GHS regulation. Phase 3 comes to an end on November 30, 2018, after which, Employers must comply fully with the WHMIS 2015 regulation. With this third and final phase, individual Provinces may slightly extend certain aspects of employer WHMIS 1988 requirements, so the rules in place for each individual Province must be reviewed. For example, the Province of Ontario, will allow Federally-regulated Employers to use WHMIS 1988 for products already present in the workplace on December 1, 2018, until May 31, 2019.

Mexico

In Mexico, GHS was adopted even before it was adopted in the United States into OSHA regulations. In June of 2011, Mexico’s Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare published a new Mexican standard, NMX-R-019-SCFI-2011. The standard adopted all building blocks of the UN’s Purple Book, revision 3, including all Environmentally Hazardous categories. The standard, however, was completely optional. Mexico presented the new standard as an ‘alternative’ to its existing standard, NOM-018-STPS-2000.

Then, fairly recently, in October of 2015, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare announced the adoption of a new GHS standard, which will eventually become mandatory. This is Mexican standard NOM-018-STPS-2015. This newer GHS standard adopted all building blocks of the UN’s Purple Book, revision 5, again, including all Environmentally Hazardous categories.

Similarly to Canada, Mexico is now also in a transition phase. Employers in Mexico may comply with the existing standard, NOM-018-STPS-2000, or standard NOM-018-STPS-2014 (this was a ‘proposed’ NOM that was officially adopted as NOM-018-STPS-2015), until October 8, 2018. SDS’s and labels then after that date, must display GHS information.

North America and Europe Reminders

Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Europe, will not be completely transitioned to GHS, across the board, until November 30, 2018, when Canada’s final transition phase for employers come to an end. In the meantime, keep in mind these differing transition and completion dates. And as always, remember that each country or region may throw in side-bar country specific requirements that veer away from the UN’s Purple Book. Review each regulation fully, and individually.

For further information and updates on European and North American regulations, please consult the following website links:

Europe:
ECHA

United States:
OSHA

Canada:
WHMIS

Mexico:
Diario Oficial de la Federación


If you have any questions regarding the GHS, please contact ICC Compliance Center Inc at 1-888-442-9628 (USA) or 1-888-977-4834 (Canada).

Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ – GHS Symbols on SDS in Canada and the United States

Frequently Asked SDS Symbols Questions

How many times have you thought you understood a requirement, only to second guess yourself about whether you got that right or not? It could be something relatively straight forward, or something a bit more complicated. Everyone has these moments occasionally, especially with the implementation of GHS around the world. At ICC, two of the questions that seem to pop up from time to time, revolve around symbols on SDSs.

Do GHS pictograms have to appear on an SDS?

The answer: No. The ‘pictogram,’ specifically, doesn’t have to appear. This answer, in part, boils down to terminology.

In both Canada, under WHMIS 2015 Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) requirements, and in the United States, under Hazcom 2012 requirements, Section 2 of an SDS is required to list the label ‘information elements’ that are applicable to the product. Hazard ‘symbols’ being one of the required ‘information elements’.

In both the United States and in Canada, ‘pictogram’ is defined as a “symbolalong with other “elements, such as a border or background color”. So a complete GHS ‘pictogram’ is actually two part; a graphic symbol on the inside, and a frame surrounding it. Both countries include an allowance only to show a ‘symbol’ (ie. not a ‘pictogram’), or, just the name of the symbol, on the SDS [Hazcom 2012, Appendix D, Table D.1, Item 2(b); WHMIS 2015 Hazardous Products Regulations, Schedule 1, Item 2(b)].

So … no complete ‘pictogram’ is required on the SDS in the US or in Canada.

If I choose to show a complete ‘pictogram’, and not just the ‘name’ of the symbol on the SDS in Section 2, do I have to use a red frame?

The answer: No. the ‘pictogram’ would not have to show a red frame on the SDS.

As mentioned above, in both countries, what is required on the SDS is the ‘symbol’ and not the complete ‘pictogram’ [Hazcom 2012, Appendix D, Table D.1, Item 2(b); HPR, Schedule 1, Item 2(b)]. What that means, is that if you choose to include a complete ‘pictogram’ on your Hazcom 2012 or WHMIS 2015 SDS (ie. the ‘symbolplus the frame), you can include the frame in the color you prefer since the requirement on the SDS is for the ‘symbol’ only and not the ‘pictogram’. There is no specific requirement in Hazcom 2012 or the HPR to have a red framed pictogram on the SDS. The red frame requirement is only on the label (Hazcom 2012, Appendix C, Section C.2.3.1; HPR, Part 3, Section 3.1).

As an example, Section 2 of an SDS for a product classified as a Flammable Liquid – Category 3 and an Eye Irritant – Category 2A, may appear as any of the following 3 options:

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3
Label elements Label elements Label elements
Hazard pictogram(s) Hazard pictogram(s) Hazard pictogram(s)
Insert GHS Red flame & Exclamation Mark Insert GHS Black flame & Exclamation Mark Exclamation Mark

Don’t Forget

The above SDS information is applicable in Canada and the United States. Section 2 SDS requirements may vary, depending on what region of the world you are dealing with.

Should you have any questions regarding SDS’s, please contact ICC Compliance Center at 1-888-442-9628 (USA) or 1-888-977-4834 (Canada).

OSHA
New OSHA Concentration Range FAQ

Validation

Oprah Winfrey once said, “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common. They all wanted validation.” Validation is receiving feedback from others that what you do and say matters. It is an acknowledgment of your actions, deeds and accomplishments. To be a healthy person we need to receive positive validation and be able to give it to ourselves. So is it possible for a company to receive validation? I believe so and here’s why.

In one of OSHA’s recent Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) postings a question regarding the use of ranges on Safety Data Sheets was added. To see the full FAQ and the answer, please click here. The specific question asked is: When may chemical manufactures/importers use concentration ranges rather than an exact percentage composition in Section 3 of the SDS, and how does this apply to trade secrets? Let’s take a closer look at OSHA’s answer. There are several parts to it and each deserves some attention.

Part 1 – Exact Percentage versus Concentration Range Clarification

The answer starts by clarifying the language used in Appendix D under Section 3. In the actual Appendix it states, “The chemical name and concentration (exact percentage) or concentration ranges of all ingredients which are classified as health hazards” must be disclosed in Section 3. However, in the FAQ answer the statement reads as “the chemical name and concentration (exact percentage) of all ingredients present in a mixture which are classified as health hazards” must be disclosed. This new phrasing has no mention of concentration ranges. In fact the answer goes on to say that concentration ranges may be used for cases where trade secret claims are made, there is variability between batches of product, or there is a group of substantially similar mixtures with similar compositions. It is now clear that exact concentrations and/or percentages of ingredients causing health hazards must be in Section 3 of an SDS. It is only in certain circumstances that a range can be used.

Part 2 – Exceptions to Exact Concentrations

As listed above, there are only 3 instances where a concentration range may be used. The first is when trade secret claims are made. The FAQ answer provides more guidance on how to use those claims correctly. As we know, these claims can be used to protect the specific chemical identity and/or the exact percentage of an ingredient. If it is the percentage that is being protected, then a concentration range can be used. The next instance where a range can be used is if there is variability between batches. Again the answer provides better details for when and how this fits. Batch-to-batch variability comes from differences in concentrations of ingredients that occur during production. To appropriately use a range here, those slight variations in concentrations cannot have any impact on health hazards of the mixture. The last allowed use of ranges is a bit tougher. Again, the FAQ does a good job of further explaining the concept of similar mixtures with similar compositions. If a manufacturer/importer has a “line of products” that are very similar, but their compositions vary slightly, then a concentration range can be used. However, here again the differences must not change the overall hazards of the mixture. The answer goes on to say that the ranges used must be “sufficiently narrow” and provide an “accurate representation” of the concentrations.

Part 3 – Validation

ICC’s answer for ranges has been clear from the beginning and matches what is in this new FAQ. We follow what is in Appendix D of HazCom 2012 in regards to how Section 3 should be written. In all of our U.S. GHS webinars, Classification courses and Regulatory Helpline responses, we say “ranges are NOT allowed unless certain criteria are met.” We then take the time with the clients or customers to explain the specific criteria to see if they in fact qualify. If they do, we work with them to review their safety data sheets or author a new one for them.


So here it is. ICC Compliance Center, a company, has its validation. We are doing it right! OSHA’s answer in this FAQ matches our standard procedure for answering questions regarding the use of ranges on safety data sheets here in the US. We knew we were doing it the right way, but here is OSHA validating our process. As always, ICC Compliance Center is here for all of your hazard communication needs.

OSHA & PHMSA Working Together

OSHA & PHMSA Issue Joint Guidance Memorandum

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a joint guidance memorandum that is intended to provide clarity on the applicability and relationship between, DOT’s labeling requirements under the HMR and OSHA’s labeling requirements for bulk shipments under the HCS 2012.

PHMSA’s hazardous materials regulations require labeling of hazardous materials in transportation, while OSHA requires labeling on containers in the workplace.

When OSHA released its Hazcom 2012 (29 CFR Part 1910.1200) revisions, Appendix C.2.3.3 stated that “If a label has a DOT transport pictogram, the corresponding HCS pictogram shall not appear.” The Hazardous Materials Regulations state “No person may offer for transportation and no carrier may transport a package bearing any marking or label which by its color, design, or shape could be confused with or conflict with a label prescribed by this part” (49 CFR Part 172.401(b)).

This raised many questions with stakeholders, and shortly thereafter, OSHA published a brief that stated that PHMSA does not view the pictograms as a conflict, and both may appear. OSHA continues on in the brief to state they intend on revising C.2.3.3, but in the meantime, they will allow both to appear. This new guidance document further confirms this position.

The Joint Guidance Memorandum can be found at https://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/joint_phmsa_memo_09192016.html


ICC is your source for compliant DOT/OSHA or TDG/WHMIS labeling requirements. Contact us to find out how we can help.

OSHA
The Top 10 – OSHA Violations 2016

Top 10s

When you think “Top 10” you might think about David Letterman’s top 10 lists. These lists are perhaps his greatest legacy from his run on the “The Late Show” (see 5 Top 10 Lists from David Letterman)

Unfortunately, this blog is not about those top 10 lists, but rather something far more serious, OSHA’s Top 10 violations.

This list is comprised of nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff. The top 3 violations remain the same as the last three years. They include: fall protection, hazard communication and scaffolds.

The complete Top 10 OSHA violations list includes:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

According to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are more than 4500 worker deaths and approximately 3 million workers injured every year. Many of the deaths are associated with fall, poor scaffolding and forklift operations. (https://blog.dol.gov/2016/10/18/top-10-osha-citations-of-2016-a-starting-point-for-workplace-safety/)

Prevention

What is astonishing is that so many of the deaths and injuries are preventable. Employers and employees must take safety seriously. Unlike David Letterman’s Top 10, there is nothing funny about workers dying or being injured.

OSHA has recently released new recommendations for safety and health programs that will help prevent injuries and deaths, reduce costs, improve compliance, and engage workers. This recommendation can be found here: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/.

Training

Training is vital. Ensure workers are trained, and have understood the training. Repeat the training as often as needed to reinforce the concepts and remind the worker that safety on the job is essential.

Contact ICC for more information on training courses available. We can assist employers with their employee training requirements. Most courses are available online, and many segments take less than 30 minutes. Everyone can spare 30 minutes to ensure that each and every day, they leave work the same way they arrived.

At ICC our motto is “See something, say something”. Remember that safety is everyone’s concern.

Environmental Update
EPA Aligns 40 CFR Part 370 with OSHA Hazcom 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final technical amendment to 40 CFR Part 370, in June 2016 which aligns the hazardous chemical reporting regulations to the changes in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazcom 2012.

These changes have a compliance date of January 1, 2018, and affect reporting under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), sections 311 and 312.

Section 311 of EPCRA requires facilities to submit a SDS or a list of hazardous chemicals grouped by categories of physical and health hazards. Section 312 of EPCRA requires facilities to submit an emergency and hazardous chemical inventory form yearly by March 1.

Prior to the change in 2012, the hazard communication regulations (OSHA) were performance oriented, and did not specify the language/description or format that the company had to use. Once the hazard communication regulations were updated, stakeholders requested that EPA align the wording to be consistent with the new OSHA Hazcom 2012 regulations.

Some of the changes in 40 CFR Part 370 include:

  • Technical terms have been updated (i.e., Material Safety Data Sheet to Safety Data Sheet)
  • The definition of Hazard Category has been updated
  • The “Five categories” (Fire/Sudden release of pressure/Reactive/Immediate acute and Delayed-chronic) have been changed to match the physical and health hazards outlined the Hazcom 2012
  • The Tier I and Tier II inventory forms are modified
  • Tier 2 Submit, the software will be updated, and EPA is providing flexibility for states to modify their software by January 2018

Look for these changes to be found in Section 15 of your Safety Data Sheets in the near future.

Contact ICC Compliance Center for more information, or if you need help updating your SDSs.

OSHA Safety
What to do When the Inspector Comes Knocking

Is anyone really ready for a surprise visit from a hazmat inspector? The quick answer is no, but there are things that you can do to prepare in anticipation of a visit.

Federal law requires that you allow an inspector access to records, property, reports, and other information relevant to shipping hazardous materials/dangerous goods. Unlike the crime show Law and Order, a search warrant is not required; you may not deny an inspector access to a regulated facility, impose conditions on the entry, or limit the inspector’s right to gather information or evidence.

Inspector’s will visit for a variety of reasons, but often include:

  • Complaints
  • Observations
  • High-risk commodities (explosives, bulk shipments)
  • Incidents
  • Prior issues
  • Proximity to another company being inspected

Preparing for the inevitable

  • Develop a plan and designate staff with defined roles
  • Ensure the designate knows what to say, and when to seek assistance from upper management
  • Conduct internal audits and institute corrective actions
  • Have commonly requested items in a centralized location

What are commonly request documents?

  • List of hazmat employees
  • Employee training records
  • Shipping papers
  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • Special permits and interpretations

What do you do when it is show time?

  • Ask the inspector to identify him/herself and the purpose of the visit
  • Escort them to a quiet area where they can review documents
  • Do not volunteer information, wait for them to ask
  • Be polite, courteous and helpful. Never become rude or argumentative
  • Take notes on what is discussed and who is spoken to
  • Explain company polices (i.e., they must take brief safety training before entering the facility, they must wear safety glasses in a specific area, the supervisor must be present when…)
  • Document the inspector’s information and get a business card, if available
  • Do NOT sign anything except the Exit Brief

The Exit Brief

The Exit Brief will document the visit and any infractions that were found. Signing this document is not an admission of guilt, but rather acknowledging receipt of the document.

Most common violations

  • Failure to train
  • Improper training recordkeeping
  • Undeclared shipments
  • Improper packaging
  • Improper closures
  • Improper testing
  • Labels and marks not properly applied
  • Unauthorized Emergency Response number

After the inspection

  • Follow up with information/documents that may have been requested
  • Verify the probable violation, and take corrective actions
  • Document any actions and/or training
  • Seek assistance by industry experts on areas that you may not understand
  • Reply within timeframes indicated on the documents received
  • Ask for an extension when needed

Being prepared for the inspector before they arrive will save time, cost, and frustration. Always do your best to comply with the regulations, and revisit internal procedures regularly to ensure they are being followed. Ensure that you stay up-to-date with the changes in the regulations, and ensure all employees are trained accordingly.


Need help? Ask us about our auditing and training services. We can help ensure you and your employees are prepared just in case the inspector comes knocking.

OSHA
OSHA Talks Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss

My husband is a rocker. He loves heavy metal music and listens to it often. There is no better channel for him than “Hair Nation” on Sirius XM radio. Having grown up with him, I know he has attended every concert available including Bon Jovi, Ratt, Metallica, Poison, and the like. One of his best memories is seeing Motorhead perform while we were living in Austria. To this day he still goes to concerts, but now the bands include Disturbed and Breaking Benjamin. What is interesting is his approach to going to concerts now as compared to when he was younger. You guessed it. The biggest change is the use of ear plugs.

I’m not sure if this change is due to getting older or the fact that being in a safety role he now realizes how damaging the level of music at these concerts is to his hearing. (You can insert your own joke about men or women having “selective” hearing here.)

two workers wearing ear protection

Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge

In a recent press release OSHA indicated that every year 22 million workers risk losing their hearing due to workplace noise hazards. The estimated worker’s compensation costs for this disability is around $242 million. This is too high! Employers warn of hearing hazards in the workplace and often require workers to wear hearing protection. In a workplace the 8-hour time weighted average exposure level is 85 decibels. To put that in context, city traffic noise heard while inside a car is about 85 decibels. Normal conversation is around 60-65 decibels. A power saw and lawn mower are around 105-110 decibels. From a few websites I checked, ear pain and damage can begin as low as 125 decibels. For more information on noise and hearing conservation in general industry, I refer you to 29 CFR 1910.95.

To combat the issue and bring attention to it, OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued the “Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge”. The goal is to involve everyone in coming up with ideas and/or technology related to occupational hearing protection. Everyone is able to submit ideas. For more information or to submit ideas go to https://www.dol.gov/featured/hearing. Submissions are due by September 30th.

Workers: Do your part and wear the proper personal protection equipment (PPE) as outlined by your employer. Think about what you do at home and ask yourself if it will have an impact on your hearing.

Employers: Know the standard and your workplace. Contact ICC Compliance Center for all custom GHS and PPE signage. Consider utilizing our PPE webinar as part of your new worker training.

As always, ICC is here for all of your safety needs. Contact us today.

Hazmat Personal Protection Equipment
Drywall and Dust Exposure

Being a Home Owner Working in Safety

A part of being a homeowner is maintaining the structure and surrounding area. We do this to keep the city and neighbors happy, but also to keep the house in good working order. If you look around your neighborhood, yards are mowed and houses are painted. You will even see the occasional furniture delivery or roofer in the area. Another part of home ownership is keeping the inside up to date. After all indoor plumbing is nice and there is always the chance that the house will be sold in the future.

Our home is currently 16 years old and we’ve been in it for 8 years. It has not been updated much beyond some interior paint and a new roof thanks to St. Louis hail storms. We decided to update a bathroom. Easy enough given how small they are, right? It turns out we needed to gut the bathroom down to the studs since it was covered in wallpaper. During the demolition there was a ton of dust generated. Now that new drywall is up it has to be “mudded and sanded” which created even more dust. What was fascinating was the fact none of the folks working wore masks or respirators during any of this. Remember I work in safety so this bothered me greatly and sent me on a hunt for what exactly is out there regarding dry wall.

Drywall and Dust Exposure

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) actually issued a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) about dust exposures resulting from drywall sanding in 1999. A link to the document can be found here.

What exactly are the hazards of drywall dust? NIOSH reports that some drywall joint compounds are made from ingredients including talc, silica, and gypsum which in dust form can irritate a person’s eyes, nose and respiratory airways. Long-term exposure to these chemicals can cause various health problems including persistent irritation, coughing, asthma-like symptoms and even lung cancer. Because of these hazards there are Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) in place for worker safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists an 8-hour time weighted average exposure limit of 15 mg/m3 for total dust exposure to Particulates Not Otherwise Regulated (PNOR) and a respirable dust exposure limit of 5 mg/m3. From the study NIOSH did to compile their HHE, it was found that some workers’ exposure equates to more than ten times those limits.

Manufacturers are warning workers on their safety data sheets of the hazards of drywall dust and list appropriate personal protective equipment and ventilation on their safety data sheets. Some even suggested alternatives to dry sanding to cut down on the dust produced including wet sanding and portable vacuum systems. However, these are not followed or used as noticed by my own experience. According to the HHE, “When respiratory protection is worn, it is often used incorrectly with little thought to training, proper selection, or fit.” As a safety person this baffles me.

Given the work on my bathroom is not complete and with the knowledge I now have, guess who will have the gift of dust masks when work begins again? Yep, if the folks in my home won’t bring the necessary items to be safe, I’ll be supplying them along with a note to the “Big Boss” about my concerns.

As always, ICC is here for all of your safety needs. Contact us today for a plant audit or our 10 and 30-Hour General Industrial Trainings.

OSHA Update
Crystalline Silica Rule (Part 3)

Well, here you have it the 3rd and final part to my Silica blog series. As I had mentioned in my previous blog the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule to curtail lung cancer, silicosis, COPD and kidney disease in workers by regulating their exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rule is included into two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime.

Silica Rule

In review from previous blogs OSHA estimates that this rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year. About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Responsible employers have been protecting workers from harmful exposure to respirable crystalline silica for years, using widely-available equipment that controls dust with water or a vacuum system.1

This ruling for Silica will reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micro grams per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift. It requires employers to use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure or provide respirators when unable to apply controls. Medical exams will be used to monitor employees, which will provide information about their lung health over time.

In Summary

The standard will require employers to:

  • Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica
  • Limit workers’ access to areas where exposure are above the PEL
  • Use dust controls to protect workers from silica
  • Provide respirators when dust controls are not providing proper elimination
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica
  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan
  • Offer medical exams
  • Train workers on silica exposure and ways to limit exposure
  • Keep records of silica exposure and medical exams of workers’

In the final rule both standards took effect on June 23, 2016. Of course there are steps to be taken and a period of implementation. Employers have to be in compliance with this ruling by June 23, 2018.

With the exception of:

  • Medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2018.
  • Medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2020.
  • Hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry must implement engineering controls to limit exposures to the new PEL by June 23, 2021.

I personally am happy to see these changes finally being made. I am sure many join me in this feeling, too, knowing their loved ones will have these protections in place so they can enjoy their later years without work related breathing issues.

1 https://www.osha.gov/silica/index.html

Other Articles in the Silica Blog Series

2 Million Plus Workers Get Protection From Deadly Dust! (Part 2)

Silica Dust Just One Account in History (Part 1)