A PUBLICATION BY: FRSA Florida Roofing Magazine, Issue April 2019
This document is advisory in nature and informational in content. It is not a standard or regulation, and it neither creates new legal obligations nor alters existing obligations created by OSHA standards or the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Pursuant to the OSH Act, employers must comply with safety and health standards and regulations issued and enforced either by OSHA or by an OSHA approved State Plan. In addition, the Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1}, requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
Frequently Asked Questions for the Construction Industry
On March 25, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a final rule regulating occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica (silica) in the construction industry (the standard). 81 Fed. Reg. 16286. OSHA developed these Frequently Asked Questions about the standard in consultation with industry and union stakeholders.
These FAQs provide guidance to employers and employees regarding the standard’s requirements. This document is organized by topic. A short introductory paragraph is included for each group of questions and answers to provide background information about the underlying regulatory requirements.
The following acronyms are used throughout this document:
- AL – action level (25 µg/m3 as an 8-hour time-weighted average)
- HEPA filter – high-efficiency particulate air filter
- PEL – permissible exposure limit (50 µg/m3 as an 8-hour time-weighted average)
- PLHCP – physician or other licensed health care professional
- TWA – time-weighted average
OSHA’s silica standard for construction applies to all occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica in construction work, except where employee exposures will remain below the AL, under any foreseeable conditions. The exception applies only where exposures below 25 µg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA are expected or achieved without using engineering or other controls. The exception is intended to ensure that the standard does not apply to employees whose work results in only minimal silica exposures.
Q: Has OSHA identified specific tasks that are likely to be outside the scope of the standard because they typically generate exposures below the AL under all foreseeable conditions?
A: Yes. When the following tasks are performed in isolation from other silica-generating tasks, they typically do not generate silica at or above the .tXL under any foreseeable conditions: mixing small amounts of mortar; mixing small amounts of concrete; mixing bagged, silica-free drywall compound; mixing bagged exterior insulation finishing system (EIFS) base and finish coat; removing concrete formwork; using block or tile splitters; and using manual (i.e., non-powered) chisels, shears, and utility knives. In addition, tasks where employees are working with silica-containing products that are, and are intended to be, handled while wet, are likely to generate exposures below the AL under any foreseeable conditions (examples include finishing and hand wiping block walls to remove excess wet mortar, pouring concrete, and grouting floor and wall tiles).
Q: Does the standard cover employees who perform silica-generating tasks for only 15 minutes or less a day?
A: The standard does not include a specific exemption for tasks with only short-term exposures (e.g., tasks with exposures for 15 minutes a day or less). However, in many cases, employees who perform construction tasks for very short periods of time, in isolation from activities that generate significant exposures to silica (e.g., some tasks listed in Table 1, abrasive blasting), will be exposed below the AL under any foreseeable conditions.
Q: If employees are not covered by the standard because their exposures will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions, does the employer need to document this determination?
A: No. The standard does not require employers to document determinations about the applicability of the standard or the data on which such determinations are based. However, an employer may document these determinations for its own purposes. Furthermore, OSHA notes that nothing in the silica standard alters employers’ duty to maintain employee exposure records under 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1020.
Q: Do construction employers have to consider exposures from other contractors when determining if their employees’ exposures will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions?
A: Yes, if it is foreseeable that the exposures of employees will be affected by exposures generated by other contractors. On many construction sites, there are multiple contractors performing silica-generating tasks. The silica generated by these tasks can migrate to employees of other contractors. Employers need to consider these secondary exposures when determining whether their employees’ exposures will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions. If, however, an employer can ensure – either due to the nature and timing of the work, or through work practice controls – that its employees will not be exposed to silica generated by other contractors, then the employer would not need to consider secondary exposures in determining whether its employees will be exposed below the AL under any foreseeable conditions.
Q: If employee exposures will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions, does the standard require the employer to complete a written exposure control plan for the worksite?
A: No. None of the standard’s requirements apply if, without implementing any controls, all employees’ exposures to silica will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions.
The standard defines certain key terms used in the rule. The standard defines such terms as “action level,” “employee exposure” (exposure to airborne respirable crystalline silica that would occur if the employee were not using a respirator), and “competent person” (an individual who is capable of identifying existing and foreseeable respirable
crystalline silica hazards in the workplace, and has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate or minimize them and the knowledge and ability necessary to fulfill the responsibilities set forth in paragraph (g) of the standard).
Q: How can an employer determine who qualifies as a “competent person” under the standard? Does an employee have to take a particular training class to meet the definition of a competent person under the standard?
A: The standard does not specify particular training requirements for competent persons. Instead, it defines a competent person in terms of capability, i.e., whether a designated competent person has the knowledge and ability to perform the duties prescribed by the standard. The employer must also give the competent person the authority to perform those duties.
To determine whether a given employee has the appropriate knowledge and ability to perform the duties of the competent person, an employer needs to confirm that the employee is capable of:
- identifying existing and foreseeable silica hazards; and
- Promptly eliminating or minimizing those hazards.
In addition, the employee must be capable of making frequent and regular inspections of job sites, materials, and equipment for purposes of implementing the written exposure control plan, to ensure that the engineering controls, work practice controls, required respiratory protection, housekeeping measures, and procedures to restrict access in the workplace are implemented for the silica-generating tasks listed in the plan. A person with these capabilities
(whether acquired through training, education, work experience, or otherwise), who is authorized by the employer to perform the duties of a competent person, qualifies as a competent person under the standard.
Q: Some provisions in the standard refer to high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. The standard defines a HEPA filter as a “filter that is at least 99.97 percent efficient in removing mono-dispersed particles of 0.3 micrometers in diameter.” May an employer rely on a manufacturer’s representation of the effectiveness of a filter to comply with this requirement?
A: Yes. The standard does not require employers to independently test the effectiveness of filters to determine if they meet the definition in paragraph (b). Employers can rely on a manufacturer’s representation that a filter is at least 99.97 percent efficient in removing mono-dispersed particles of 0.3 micrometers in diameter or that it is compliant with the OSHA definition of a “HEPA filter.” However, employers must properly select, use, maintain, and replace HEPA filters in order to ensure that they continue to function according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Exposure Control Methods
The standard permits construction employers to select from two methods of compliance to control exposures to respirable crystalline silica: “specified exposure control methods” or “alternative exposure control methods.” Under “specified exposure control methods,” employers can comply by fully and properly implementing the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection set forth for the relevant task on “Table 1.” Employers that follow Table 1 do not have to assess employee exposures or separately ensure compliance with the PEL. Table 1 includes common construction tasks.
For tasks that are not listed in Table 1, or where the employer does not fully and properly implement the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection described on Table 1, the employer must comply with “alternative exposure control methods:• Under this compliance option, the employer must ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of respirable crystalline silica in excess of the PEL of 50 µg/m3, calculated as an 8-hour TWA. The employer must assess exposures using either a performance option or a scheduled monitoring option.
Further, as with other health standards, employers following alternative exposure control methods must use engineering and work practice controls to reduce and maintain employee exposure to silica to or below the PEL, unless the employer can demonstrate that such controls are not feasible. If feasible engineering and work practice controls are not sufficient to reduce employee exposure to or below the PEL, the employer must nonetheless use those controls to reduce exposures to the lowest feasible level and then supplement the controls with the use of respiratory protection.
Q: If all of the jobs and tasks an employer performs are included in Table 1, can the employer comply with Table 1 exclusively, instead of following alternative exposure control methods?
A: Yes. Most of the tasks that generate exposure to silica in construction are listed in Table 1, and OSHA anticipates that most employers will choose to follow Table 1 for tasks listed on the table.
Q: Many of the entries in Table 1 require employers to “operate and maintain” tools “in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to minimize dust emissions.” If an employer is following Table 1, and employees are performing one of these tasks, does the silica standard require the employer to follow every element of the tool manufacturer’s instructions?
A: No, the silica standard requires employers to follow manufacturer instructions that are related to dust control. In determining which instructions might relate to dust control, employers should consider whether the failure to follow the particular instruction would increase employee exposure to silica.
Q: The manufacturer’s instructions for a number of tools state that respiratory protection is required whenever employees use the tools. Does that language supersede respiratory protection requirements in Table 1?
A: No. The standard does not require employers to follow tool manufacturers’ instructions for respirator use.
Q: Some entries on Table 1 require the use of a dust collection system that provides, at a minimum, the airflow recommended by the manufacturer. Does the standard require employers to conduct their own air flow assessments to ensure compliance with this requirement?
A: No. Employers may normally rely on statements made by the manufacturer of equipment to determine compliance. Employers do not need to perform their own testing to determine if a dust collection system functions at the level required by the standard. However, employers must properly select, use, maintain, and replace dust collection systems in order to ensure that they function as designed, e.g., by ensuring that the port and hose are not obstructed.
Q: For a few tasks on Table 1, respirator requirements vary based on task duration, i.e., whether the task is performed for “less than or equal to four hours/shift” or “greater than four hours/shift:’ Does the employer have to track the exact amount of time that employees are performing a job throughout a shift to be in compliance with Table 1?
A: No. Before the task is performed, the employer must make a good-faith judgment about whether the task will take more than four hours. This judgment should be based on previous experience and other available information.
Q: Is an employer following Table 1 required to “minimize dust emissions?” What does it mean to “minimize dust emissions” in this context?
A: Although many of the entries on Table 1 require employers to “operate and maintain” tools “in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions to minimize dust emissions or to “operate and maintain machine[s] to minimize dust emissions,” the standard does not separately require employers to minimize dust emissions. An employer generating a limited amount of dust when engaging in a task listed on Table 1 would not be in violation of the standard if it is fully and properly implementing the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection specified on the Table (including operating and maintaining controls so as to minimize emissions). A small amount of dust can be expected even with new equipment that is operating as intended by the manufacturer. However, a noticeable increase in dust emissions may indicate that the dust control system is not operating properly.
Q: If an employer is utilizing water to control dust generated by a crushing machine, and has consistent air monitoring results or objective data demonstrating that exposures are under the AL of 25 µg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA (and thus below the PEL), is the employer required to put operators in ventilated booths or remote control stations, as specified in the relevant entry on Table 1?
A: No. Employers performing tasks listed in Table 1 can choose to follow alternative exposure control methods in paragraph (d) instead of implementing the controls specified in Table 1. The alternative exposure control methods approach involves assessing employees’ silica exposures and limiting exposures to the PEL by following the hierarchy of controls.
Q: Are tile saws covered by Table 1?
A: OSHA considers handheld tile saws to be handheld power saws, for purposes of Table 1. (OSHA considers stationary tile saws to be stationary masonry saws, also covered by Table 1). Employers of employees using these types of tile saws can follow Table 1 by fully and properly implementing the engineering controls and work practices in the specified paragraphs.
Alternative Exposure Control Methods
Q: Does an employer using alternative exposure control methods for compliance have to conduct sampling of all employees performing all job tasks?
Q: For alternative exposure control methods, the standard requires employers to assess the exposure of each employee who is or may reasonably be expected to be exposed to silica at or above the AL using either the performance option or the scheduled monitoring option. If an employer reasonably expects its employee’s exposure to remain below the AL, does the standard require the employer to assess that employee’s exposure using one of these two options?
A: No. The standard only requires an employer using alternative exposure control methods to conduct an exposure assessment if it is reasonable for the employer to expect that exposures will be at or above the AL.
Q: Under the scheduled monitoring option, do employers have to monitor exposures every time a new job is started (and thus a new work area is created)?
A: Following initial monitoring, the employer can continue to perform periodic monitoring at the frequency specified in the standard, provided that the task and the workplace conditions in the new work area are substantially similar, in that they are not reasonably expected to result in exposures above those detected during the most recent monitoring. This applies whether the new work area is on the same or a subsequent job site.
Q: Can an employer use the scheduled monitoring option, but then switch to the performance option?
A: Yes. The employer has the option of switching to the performance option and can use air monitoring data generated during scheduled monitoring to fulfill assessment requirements under the performance option, provided that the air monitoring data relied on is sufficient to accurately characterize employee exposures. When following either exposure assessment option under the silica standard, the employer must reassess exposures following any changes in the production process, control equipment, personnel, or work practices that may reasonably be expected to result in new or additional exposures to silica at or above the AL, or when the employer has any reason to believe that new or additional exposures at or above the AL have occurred.
The standard includes requirements related to housekeeping on construction worksites. Under the standard, employers must not allow dry sweeping or dry brushing “where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica unless wet sweeping, HEPA-filtered vacuuming or other methods that minimize the likelihood of exposure are not feasible.” In addition, employers must not allow compressed air to be used to clean clothing or surfaces where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica unless: (1) The compressed air is used in conjunction with a ventilation system that effectively captures the dust cloud created by the compressed air, or (2) No alternative method is feasible.
Q: If employee exposure will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions, does the prohibition on dry sweeping, dry brushing, and the use of compressed air for cleaning clothing and surfaces apply?
A: No, none of the standard’s requirements apply if, without implementing any controls, exposures will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions. Employers should note, however, that dry sweeping, dry brushing, and the use of compressed air, either alone or in combination with other tasks, can result in exposures at or above the AL, and thus covered under the standard. Employers should consider the duration of the dry sweeping, dry brushing, or use of compressed air; the location and frequency of the tasks; and other factors in determining whether employee exposures will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions.
Q: Does the standard prohibit an employer from using compressed air as part of a task not related to cleaning clothing or surfaces?
A: No. The standard generally prohibits the use of compressed air “to clean clothing or surfaces” where that activity can contribute to employee silica exposures. It does not prohibit the use of compressed air for purposes other than cleaning clothing or surfaces, e. g., for operating a pneumatic tool. Employers may also use compressed air for housekeeping when the compressed air is used in conjunction with a ventilation system that effectively captures the dust cloud created by the compressed air, or if no alternative method for cleaning clothes or surfaces is feasible.
Q: The standard allows the use of compressed air to clean clothing or surfaces when the compressed air is used in conjunction with a ventilation system that effectively captures the dust cloud created by the compressed air. What type of ventilation system is acceptable to use?
A: The standard does not specify the use of a particular ventilation system for these purposes. Whatever type of system is selected, it must be able to effectively capture any dust cloud created by the use of compressed air, thereby preventing the dust cloud from entering employees’ breathing zones and contributing to silica exposures.
Q: On occasion, construction employees remove and clean filters used in dust collection systems and dispose of the dust, as appropriate. Is there a specific engineering or work practice controls employers must implement during this task?
A: No. The standard does not specify the engineering or work practice controls to be used during filter cleaning and dust disposal. The tasks of filter cleaning and dust disposal are not separately listed in Table 1, but will often be performed as part of a Table 1 task. An employer following Table 1 must operate and maintain the relevant tool in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to minimize dust emissions, which may include instructions for removing and cleaning filters and disposing of dust.
Written Exposure Control Plan
The standard requires employers to establish and implement a written exposure control plan that contains at least the following elements: (1) a description of the tasks in the workplace that involve exposure to silica; (2) a description of the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection used to limit employee exposure to silica for each task; (3) a description of the housekeeping measures used to limit employee exposure to silica; and (4) a description of the procedures used to restrict access to work areas, when necessary, to minimize the number of employees exposed to silica and their level of exposure, including exposures generated by other employers or sole proprietors. The plan must be reviewed and evaluated for effectiveness at least annually and updated as necessary. Furthermore, employers must designate a competent person to make frequent and regular inspections of job sites, materials, and equipment to implement the exposure control plan.
Q: Does the standard require employers to have a written exposure control plan for each worksite?
A: Yes, but the standard does not require employers to develop a new written plan for each job or worksite. It requires only that employers have a written exposure control plan applicable to each worksite. Employers may develop a single comprehensive written exposure control plan that covers all required aspects of the plan for all work activities at all worksites. Any such comprehensive plan can be used on all of an employer’s worksites if it addresses the materials, tasks, and conditions that are relevant to the work being performed.
Q: Does the standard require employers to list all of the tasks that could involve any exposure to silica in their written exposure control plans?
A: No. Tasks that are not covered by the standard because employee exposures will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions, without implementing any controls, do not need to be included in the written exposure control plan.
Q: In the written exposure control plan, what level of detail is required for the description of workplace tasks that involve silica exposures?
A: The written exposure control plan must describe the tasks that involve silica exposures in sufficient detail to enable the employer and employees to consistently identify and control silica-related hazards.
Q: What procedures can employers use to restrict access to work areas where silica-generating activities occur?
A: The standard requires that the written exposure control plan include procedures for restricting access to work areas, when necessary, to minimize the number of employees exposed to silica and their level of exposure, including exposures generated by other employers or sole proprietors. The standard does not specify particular procedures employers must use to restrict access to work areas with silica-generating activities.
Q: If employees are performing silica-generating tasks on a particular floor of a construction site, does the employer need to restrict access such that no other employees can enter the area where the silica-generating tasks are occurring?
A: No. OSHA does not intend for the standard to prohibit all employees from entering entire areas of a construction site simply because employees in those areas are performing some work involving the generation of silica.
Q: What are the standard’s requirements for reviewing and evaluating the effectiveness of the written exposure control plan?
A: The standard requires employers to review and evaluate the effectiveness of the written exposure control plan at least annually, and to update it as necessary. The standard does not specify how employers should review and evaluate the effectiveness of the written exposure control plan. The review and evaluation needed will depend on a number of factors, including the number and variety of jobs conducted by the employer. In general, a review and evaluation that consists of the following steps will be sufficient to fulfill this obligation: (1) an assessment of the written exposure control plan(s) to determine if it continues to accurately describe all current conditions/scenarios at the worksite, a discussion with the competent person(s) regarding the effectiveness of the written exposure control plan(s); and (3) a discussion with a sample of employees regarding the effectiveness of the written exposure control plan(s). There is no set number of employees that need to participate in the review and evaluation. The employees involved should represent a range of exposures in order to allow the employer to adequately review and evaluate the plan’s effectiveness.
Q: Does the standard require employers to document their review and evaluation of the written exposure control plan?
A: No. The standard requires employers to review and evaluate the effectiveness of the written exposure control plan at least annually and to update it as necessary because work conditions can change.
Q: If a small employer with just a handful of employees intends to designate one of those employees as a competent person on each job site, does the standard require the employer to hire an additional competent person to conduct frequent and regular inspections of its job sites?
A: No. The standard requires employers to designate a competent person to make frequent and regular inspections of job sites, materials, and equipment to implement the written exposure control plan, but it does not obligate employers to hire a new employee to carry out these tasks.
Q: Does the competent person have to be on site at all times?
A: No. The competent person can leave the site periodically, so long as he or she fulfills the responsibilities set forth in paragraph (g). The competent person must “make frequent and regular inspections of job sites, materials, and equipment to implement the written exposure control plan.”
The standard requires construction employers to make medical surveillance available at no cost, and at a reasonable time and place, to any employee who is required by the silica standard to use a respirator for 30 or more days a year. All required medical examinations and procedures must be performed by a physician or other licensed health care professional (PLHCP ), defined as an individual whose legally permitted the scope of practice allows him or her to independently provide or be delegated the responsibility to provide some or all of the particular health care services required by paragraph (h) of the standard. An initial examination must be offered within 30 days of initial assignment unless the employee has received a medical examination that meets the requirements of the standard within the last three years. Thereafter, the employee must be offered a follow-up examination at least every three years, or more frequently if recommended by the PLHCP.
The examinations must include a medical and work history, a physical examination, a chest x-ray, a pulmonary function test, a test for latent tuberculosis infection (initial exam only}, and any other tests deemed appropriate by the PLHCP. The employee will receive a written medical report from the PLHCP within 30 days of each exam that includes: (1) a statement indicating the results of the medical examination; (2) any recommended limitations on the employee’s use of respirators; (3) any recommended limitations on the employee’s exposure to silica; and (4) a statement, if applicable, that the employee should be examined by a specialist.
The employer must also obtain a written medical opinion from the PLHCP within 30 days of each exam, which contains more limited information than the report to the employee. The PLHCP’s opinion to the employer contains the date of the examination, a statement that the examination has met the requirements of the standard, and any recommended limitations on the employee’s use of respirators. If the employee gives written authorization, the written opinion for the employer must also contain any recommended limitations on the employee’s exposure to silica and/or a statement that the employee should be seen by a specialist (if applicable). The employer must ensure that each employee receives a copy of the written medical opinion provided to the employer within 30 days of his or her exam.
Q: Does the standard require employers to count any day during which an employee is required to use a respirator, for any amount of time, as a day of respirator use for purposes of applying the 30-day trigger for medical surveillance?
A: Yes. If an employee is required by the standard to use a respirator at any time during a given day, regardless of the duration of the respirator use, that day counts as one day toward the 30-day threshold for medical surveillance. Thus, a “day” of respirator use for purposes of the 30-day threshold does not mean a full day of respirator use.
Q: The silica standard limits the information that can be included in a PLHCP’s or specialist written medical opinion for the employer without the employee’s written consent. Does the standard prohibit an employer from receiving any of the information from sources outside of the medical surveillance examination process, such as via a workers’ compensation claim?
A: No. The standard limits only the information that can be included in the PLHCP ‘s or specialist’s written medical opinion for the employer following an examination offered to an employee for purposes of compliance with the medical surveillance provisions of the standard. If an employer uses the same individual or entity to manage medical surveillance and workers’ compensation records, there must be separate procedures for maintaining and managing the separate sources of information.
Q: Under the standard, can an employer require employees who participate in medical surveillance to see a health care professional of the employer’s choice?
A: Yes, the silica standard permits employers to select a health care professional to perform the medical examinations required by the standard.
Q: Does the standard require employees to participate in medical surveillance?
A: No, although the standard requires employers to make medical surveillance available to qualifying employees, the standard does not require qualifying employees to participate in medical surveillance.
Q: Although the standard does not require employees to participate in medical surveillance, can an employer make such participation mandatory?
A: Nothing in the standard precludes an employer from requiring participation in medical surveillance programs, as appropriate under other applicable laws or collective bargaining agreements.
Q: Paragraph (h) requires employers to make an initial (baseline) medical examination available to each employee required to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year unless the employee has received an examination that meets the requirements of the standard within the last three years. Can an employer rely on an employee’s verbal statement that he or she has already received such an examination?
A: No. An employee’s verbal statement that he or she received an initial medical examination from a prior employer is not sufficient to discharge the employer’s responsibility to offer such an examination.
Q: The standard requires respirator use under certain circumstances. Under OSHA’s respiratory protection standard, employees must be medically able to use a respirator. What are the employer’s responsibilities for employees who are assigned a task that requires the use of a respirator under the standard, but is not medically able to use a negative pressure respirator?
A: Among other things, OSHA’s respiratory protection standard requires employers to provide a medical evaluation to determine the employee’s ability to use a respirator, before the employee is fit tested or required to use the respirator in the workplace. It also requires employers to obtain a written recommendation from the PLHCP on whether the employee is medically able to use a respirator. If an employee receives medical surveillance under the silica standard, the PLHCP’s written medical opinion for the employer also must include any recommended limitations on the employee’s use of respirators. If a PLHCP determines through either a medical evaluation under the respiratory protection standard, or medical surveillance under the standard, that an employee has a medical condition that places the employee’s health at increased risk if a negative pressure respirator is used, but the employee can use a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR), then the employer must provide a PAPR. OSHA believes many workers who are medically unable to use a negative pressure respirator will be able to use a PAPR. However, if an employee cannot use either type of respirator, then the employer must not assign the employee to perform a task that would require the employee to use a respirator. In such a situation, the employer may need to consult other local, state, or federal laws and regulations and collective bargaining agreements to determine its obligations with respect to such employees.
Employee Information and Training
The standard requires employers to ensure that each employee who is covered by the standard can demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the health hazards associated with exposure to silica, specific tasks in the workplace that could result in exposure to silica, specific measures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure to silica, the contents of the standard, the identity of the competent person designated by the employer, and the purpose and a description of the medical surveillance program.
Q: Does this standard require classroom training for employees on the required subjects of the rule?
A: No. Employers are in the best position to determine how training tan most effectively be accomplished. Therefore, the standard does not specify how an employer needs to train employees.
Q: How can employees demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the required subjects, as required by the silica standard?
A: There is no set method employers must use to ensure employees demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the required subjects. Instead, the standard defines employers’ training obligations in terms of performance-oriented objectives meant to ensure that employees are aware of the hazards associated with silica in their workplace and how they can help protect themselves. However, as a general matter, employers can determine whether employees have the requisite knowledge through methods such as discussion of the required training subjects, written tests, or oral quizzes.
Q: Does the hazard communication standard apply when employees’ silica exposures will remain below the AL?
A: Yes. The hazard communication standard applies to hazardous chemicals (including respirable crystalline silica) regardless of the airborne exposure level.
The standard requires employers to make and maintain records of certain information, including air monitoring data, objective data, and medical surveillance data. Required records must be maintained and made available in accordance with 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1020, which generally requires employers to ensure that these types of records are maintained for at least 30 years.
Q: How can employers comply with the requirement to ensure that employee medical records are maintained for the proper period of time when they do not receive a copy of the PLHCP’s written report to the employee?
A: Employers are responsible for maintaining records in their possession (e.g., the PLHCP ‘s written medical opinion for the employer). Employers are also responsible for ensuring the retention of records in the possession of the PLHCP. An employer can fulfill this second obligation by including the retention requirement in the agreement between the employer and the PLHCP or by otherwise specifically communicating to the PLHCP the substance of OSHA’s record-retention requirements.
For more information on OSHA’s Silica Standard, please visit the OSHA website at www.osha.gov.