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

Silicosis and OSHA Standards

As you may recall in my last blog, I spoke of a tragic story out of West Virginia. It was the Hawk’s Nest Industrial Incident and the repercussions on the people of that time in the 1930s. Up to date each year illness continues takes the lives of thousands of workers. One of these illness still present is caused by a deadly dust – crystalline silica which can cause Silicosis. It is approximated that 2.3 million people in the U.S. are exposed to silica at work. Over time workers have come to count on OSHA to adopt standards to be enforced in the workplace. These standards aid in the reduction of the risks to workers from contracting illness or injury in the workplace.

Let’s review what crystalline silica is. Crystalline silica is an important industrial material found largely in the earth’s crust and is commonly found in the likes of sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar. It is found in materials that we see every day in the construction of roads, buildings, and sidewalks. Silica dust occurs in the workplace when operations involve cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing of concrete, brick, block, rock, and stone. It can also be found among operations that use sand products, such as glass manufacturing, foundries, sand blasting, and hydraulic fracturing.

Crystalline silica (respirable) is hazardous to workers who inhale small particles, which puts a worker at risk of developing silica-related diseases that can be serious. Even deadly. Tiny as these particles are they can be easily inhaled and get deep into workers lungs, which then causes silicosis, an irreversible, incurable, and fatal lung disease. There are other repercussions from exposure to silica, workers are at risk for lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and kidney disease.

Silica Exposure Limits

OSHA and the workforce has known about the dangers of silica for a long time. As a matter of fact more than 80 years ago, U.S. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins brought experts and stakeholders together to figure out ways to safeguard labors from silica. OSHA’s current PEL’s (permissible exposure limits) for silica are over 40 years old. There has been proof that shows the current exposure limits do not protect workers. For instance silica exposure has been proven to cause lung cancer and kidney disease at the current PEL’s.

In efforts to protect workers from the dangers of crystalline silica, OSHA has finalized a ruling and put in place standards for silica. One for general industry and maritime, and the other for construction. OSHA has taken the time to gather information through many venues getting them to the point of establishing the final rule for silica. They have accomplished this through extensive review of scientific evidence from current industry standards, public outreach efforts, weeks of public hearings, and a period in which they took comments from the public. By doing this the ruling provides reasonable, inexpensive and flexible strategies for employers to implement protection for their workers. It is estimated that this ruling will save the lives of 600 or more workers each year and once fully implemented prevent more than 900 cases of Silicosis each year.

Just how will the rule protect workers? The rule reduces the volume of silica dust that a worker can be exposed to (PEL equation can be found here). Employers will have to implement controls and practices that reduce workers’ exposure to the silica dust. Employers will also have to safeguard that silica dust is wetted down or vacuumed up in dust collectors to prevent workers from breathing it in. Many employers have already been implementing measures to protect their workers from silica.

In brief under the new rule employers are required to:

  • limit access to high exposure areas
  • provide training
  • provide respiratory protection (if controls are not enough to limit exposure)
  • provide written exposure control plans
  • measure exposures

Employers are also required under this ruling to offer medical examinations to workers that are considered to be highly exposed to silica dust.

OSHA Compliance

OSHA will help employers comply with the rule to protect their workers by providing flexibility to help employers protect workers from silica exposure. They have given from one to five years to get the correct protections in place. OSHA has staggered compliance dates to give sufficient time to meet the requirements of this rule.

There are many industries affected by this new rule, are you one of them?

Here are the industries projected to be affected according to OSHA:

  • Construction
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Pottery products
  • Structural clay products
  • Concrete products
  • Foundries
  • Dental laboratories
  • Paintings and coatings
  • Jewelry production
  • Refractory products
  • Ready-mix concrete
  • Cut stone and stone products
  • Abrasive blasting
  • Refractory furnace installation and repair
  • Railroad transportation
  • Oil and gas operations

If specifications are followed correctly employers can be confident that they are providing workers with the necessary level of protection. What are these specifications? Stay tuned for part 3 of this silica blog series where I will detail the Crystalline Silica Rule.

More information can be found here: https://www.osha.gov/silica/index.html

Other Articles in the Silica Blog Series

Crystalline Silica Rule (Part 3)

Silica Dust Just One Account in History (Part 1)

Special Permits
Adoption of Special Permits into the HMR (HM-233F)

There was a Legislative act signed by US president Barack Obama in July of 2013 called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21. As a result, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is making changes to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). These changes will incorporate some provisions from some of the special permits that have a proven safety record and have been widely used over an extended period of time. The intent in doing this is to provide widespread access to regulatory flexibility normally offered in special permits and removing the need for abundant renewal requests. The adopted amendments will also reduce paperwork burdens and help commerce while sustaining an appropriate level of safety.

Special permits set out variances to the requirements found in the regulations, but still has a level of safety that is equal to the safety level required otherwise in the regulations. The MAP-21 legislation required PHMSA to take a look at the special permits that have been in effect for 10-years. PHMSA conducted an investigation of all active special permits and categorized them, as appropriate, as suitable for inclusion into this rulemaking.

The result is PHMSA amending the regulations, 49 CFR Parts 171–180, by accepting requirements within 96 existing special permits. These amendments are based on the review they did of all active special permits as of January 1, 2013. There were 1,070 Special Permits that were not suggested for inclusion in the HMR due to these special permits having requirements that do not have a wide range for applicability, have already been implemented into the HMR, are being addressed in other rulemakings, or were removed after receiving comments in response to the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) under this HM-233F.

In doing this PHMSA was to determine which ones may be implemented into the HMR. This also required PHMSA to adopt any special permits identified for inclusion in a final rule by October 1, 2015.

The factors to be considered during the examination to determine suitability for implementation into the HMR are as follows:

  1. The safety record of the hazardous materials (hazmat) transported under the SP;
  2. The application of a SP;
  3. The suitability of the provisions in the SP for incorporation into the hazmat regulations; and
  4. Rulemaking activity in related areas. [i]

Before the MAP-21 was put into legislation, PHMSA had already completed a number of rulemakings to adopt some special permits that had a proven safety record into the HMR. Some of these can be found on Table 1[ii] in this final rule.

After the passing of the MAP-21, PHMSA had to change its approach to fulfill the requirements set forth in this legislation. They established terms for reviewing, set up criteria and categories, and put tools in place to help track and facilitate in analyzing current special permits in timely and efficient manner.

In the MAP-21 Legislation the Federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Law was revised to address the “SP and exclusions,” section under paragraph (f).

It states:

(f) Incorporation into regulations.

(1) IN GENERAL-Not later than 1 year after the date on which a SP has been in continuous effect for a 10-year period, the Secretary shall conduct a review and analysis of that SP to determine whether it may be converted into the hazardous materials regulations.

(2) FACTORS-In conducting the review and analysis under paragraph (1), the Secretary may consider-

(A) the safety record for hazardous materials transported under the special permit;

(B) the application of a special permit

(C) the suitability of provisions in the special permit for incorporation into the hazardous materials regulations; and

(D) rulemaking activity in related areas.

(3) RULEMAKING- After completing the review and analysis under paragraph (1) and after providing notice and opportunity for public comment, the Secretary shall either institute a rulemaking to incorporate the special permit into the hazardous materials regulations or publish in the Federal Register the Secretary’s justification for why the special permit is not appropriate for incorporation into the regulations[iii]

PHMSA was also required to implement standard operating procedures (See my previous blog on SOP) to assist with the special permit review and approval processes.

PHMSA has requested comments from holders of special permits that were not implemented. “We stated that we were particularly interested in comments that confirm or refute the suitability, safety, and general applicability of the Special Permit. We asked that if you are a holder of a SP that was not proposed to be adopted but believe it should be, you should submit material to support such an argument.”

They requested that special permit holders submit information and supporting arguments along with technical/scientific data as well as the cost, benefits and frequency of shipments made under said special provision. Information regarding any incidents during transport with said special provision and how often the incidences occurred is also to be provided. PHMSA also asked for commenters to include suggested regulatory text.

The final rule includes much more detailed information like a special permit conversion project chart, where the method is shown on how they staged the analysis and decision process. This includes the specific Special Permits proposed for inclusion, also includes many comments from industry that give a good look into what others are thinking, which brings in different useful perspectives. For more on this final ruling please follow the HM-233 links within this blog.

[i] Pg. 4 of the HM-233F Final Rule

[ii] Pg. 6 of the HM-233F Final Rule

[iii] Pg. 7-8 of the HM-233 Final rule

CPSC Declines to Incorporate GHS Classification for Sensitizers

In a set-back for harmonization between U.S. regulations for consumer products and workplace chemicals, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has decided not to adopt the classification for sensitizers used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In a Final Rule published in the Federal Gazette on February 14, 2014 (CPSC Docket No. CPSC-2013-0010), the CPSC has revised the supplemental definition of “strong sensitizer” under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). The FHSA addresses various chemical hazards for consumer products. This new definition is intended to:
Continue reading “CPSC Declines to Incorporate GHS Classification for Sensitizers”

HM-244C Minor Editorial Corrections and Clarifications

In this September 1st final rule, PHMSA is correcting typographical errors, incorrect CFR references and citations, inconsistent use of terminology, misstatements of certain regulatory requirements and inadvertent omissions of information.

Some of the editorial corrections include sections:

  • 107.117-Correction of the Federal Motor Carrier Administration telephone contact information.
  • 107.329-Corrections to the minimum civil penalty.
  • 71.7-Removal of the Compressed Gas Association’s (CGA) publication from 171.7(b) and paragraph (g) (6) from 180.205.
  • 172.604-(b) (1) adding the word "information" to then read, "emergency response information (ERI provider)" and clarification in (b)(2) that the person registered with the emergency response provider must be identified by name or contract number on the shipping paper.
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