The following contains comments for the recent March 2014 comment period regarding Crystalline Silica:
Annual summer campaign to prevent heat-related illnesses
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced the launch of its annual Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers. For the fourth consecutive year, OSHA’s campaign aims to raise awareness and educate workers and employers about the dangers of working in hot weather and provide resources and guidance to address these hazards. Workers at particular risk are those in outdoor industries, such as agriculture, construction, landscaping and transportation.
“Heat-related illnesses can be fatal, and employers are responsible for keeping workers safe,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Employers can take a few easy steps to save lives, including scheduling frequent water breaks, providing shade and allowing ample time to rest.”
Thousands of employees become sick each year and many die from working in the heat. In 2012, there were 31 heat-related worker deaths and 4,120 heat-related worker illnesses. Labor-intensive activities in hot weather can raise body temperatures beyond the level that normally can be cooled by sweating. Heat illness initially may manifest as heat rash or heat cramps, but can quickly escalate to heat exhaustion and then heat stroke if simple preventative measures are not followed. Heat illness disproportionately affects those who have not built up a tolerance to heat (acclimatization), and it is especially dangerous for new and temporary workers.
“Acclimatization is a physical change that the body undergoes to build tolerance to heat, and it is a critical part of preventing heat illnesses and fatalities,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Over the past three years, lack of acclimatization was the cause in 74 percent of heat-related citations issued. Employers have a responsibility to provide workplaces that are safe from recognized hazards, including outdoor heat.”
Last year, OSHA issued 11 heat-related citations. In some of these cases, the employer and staffing agency were cited because they involved temporary workers.
In preparation for the summer season, OSHA has developed heat illness educational materials in English and Spanish, as well as a curriculum to be used for workplace training, also available in both English and Spanish. Additionally, a Web page provides information and resources on heat illness – including how to prevent it and what to do in case of an emergency – for workers and employers. The page is available at: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html.
OSHA also has released a free application for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites. The app displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, as well as reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level. Since its 2011 launch, more than 130,000 users have downloaded the app. Available for Android-based platforms and the iPhone, the app can be downloaded in English and Spanish by visiting: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html.
In developing its inaugural national campaign in 2011, federal OSHA worked closely with the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration and adapted materials from that state’s successful campaign. Additionally, OSHA is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to incorporate worker safety precautions when heat alerts are issued across the nation. NOAA also will include pertinent worker safety information on its heat watch Web page at http://www.noaawatch.gov/themes/heat.php.
From OSHA’s website:
Inhalation of very small (respirable) crystalline silica particles puts workers at risk for silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease. OSHA recently released a proposed rule to protect workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica.
This is a proposal, not a final rule. OSHA encourages the public to participate in development of the rule by submitting comments and participating in public hearings. Your input will help OSHA develop a rule that ensures healthy working conditions for employees and is feasible for employers.
“Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential. Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. This proposal is expected to prevent thousands of deaths from silicosis – an incurable and progressive disease – as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases, and kidney disease. Workers affected by silica are fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers lost to entirely preventable illnesses. We’re looking forward to public comment on the proposal.”
Dr. David Michaels Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health
OSHA estimates that the proposed rule will save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis per year, once the full effects of the rule are realized.
The proposed rule is the result of extensive review of scientific evidence relating to the health risks of exposure to respirable crystalline silica, analysis of the diverse industries where worker exposure to crystalline silica occurs, and robust outreach efforts to affected stakeholders. OSHA carefully considered current industry consensus standards on crystalline silica exposure, recommendations from small business representatives, and input from other interested parties and partner agencies in developing the proposed rule.
OSHA currently enforces 40-year-old permissible exposure limits (PELs) for crystalline silica in general industry, construction and shipyards that are outdated, inconsistent between industries, and do not adequately protect worker health. The proposed rule brings protections into the 21st century.
“The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is pleased to join with Dr. Michaels and our partners in labor and industry in OSHA’s announcement of the notice of proposed rulemaking on occupational exposure to crystalline silica. NIOSH has a long history of research and recommendations on preventing worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Ensuring the health and safety of all workers is an important part of ensuring a strong economy and future economic growth.”
Dr. John Howard Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Select from the tabs at the top of the page to learn more about the proposed rule and ways you can contribute during the rulemaking process.
Without proper engineering controls, workers can be exposed to harmful levels of respirable crystalline silica that can cause silicosis, lung cancer, and other lung and kidney diseases (below)
Courtesy New Jersey Department of Health
Applying water to a saw blade when cutting materials that contain crystalline silica — such as stone, rock, concrete, brick, and block — substantially reduces the amount of dust created during these operations (right)
- OSHA begins public hearings on silica proposal, continues extensive public engagement [3/18/14]
- NIOSH highlights silica research at OSHA public hearing [3/18/14]
- OSHA extends comment period on proposed silica rule to February 11 [1/24/14]
- OSHA will hold live Web chat on its proposed silica rule [1/8/14]
- OSHA extends comment period on proposed silica rule to provide additional time for public input [10/25/13]
- OSHA announces that the notice of proposed rulemaking for respirable silica has been published in the Federal Register [9/12/13]
- OSHA announces proposed rule to protect workers exposed to crystalline silica [8/23/13]
Statements on Announcement of Proposed Rule:
- Statement from the Assistant Secretary [8/23/13]
- Statement from Frank Hearl [PDF* 179 KB] [8/23/13]
- Statement from Alan White [PDF* 181 KB] [8/23/13]
- Audio Recording of Press Call [MP3* 23 MB] [8/23/13]
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) [PDF* 183 KB]
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
The NPRM is OSHA’s formal notice of regulatory action related to Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica. The NPRM contains some background information on analyses related to the proposed rule, as well as the proposed regulatory text. OSHA welcomes public comments on the NPRM.
Health Effects & Risk Assessment Background Documents [PDF* 2.28 MB] As part of the rulemaking process, OSHA carefully evaluated health effects of and the risk of morbidity and mortality associated with occupational exposure to crystalline silica. A Health Effects Supplement [PDF*] contains OSHA’s assessment of additional literature published after its preliminary analysis was complete. OSHA welcomes public comments on these background documents.
Preliminary Economic Analysis (PEA) [PDF* 12 MB] The PEA details OSHA’s estimation of costs, benefits, and other economic impacts of the proposed rule. OSHA welcomes public comments on the PEA.
Employment Analysis [PDF* 397 KB] Inforum, an independent, not-for-profit research entity, estimated the industry and aggregate employment effects of the proposed silica rule
Federal Docket for Silica Rulemaking
Visit the federal docket folder on Regulations.gov to examine supporting materials for the proposed rule and review comments submitted by other members of the public, workers and worker groups, affected industries, and other interested parties. You may also submit your own comments on the silica rulemaking to the docket via the link above.
Public Participation in the Rulemaking Process
Review Materials Submitted to OSHA
All testimony, comments, and other materials submitted to the rulemaking docket are or will be listed online at http://www.regulations.gov (Docket ID# OSHA-2010-0034); however, some information (e.g., copyrighted material) is not publicly available to read or download through that website. All submissions to the docket, including copyrighted material, are available for inspection and, where permissible, copying at the OSHA Docket Office, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20210.
Provide Comments after Public Hearings
The public hearings closed on April 4, 2014. Those members of the public who filed a timely written notice of intention to appear prior to the hearings are able to submit additional comments. Evidence and data relevant to the proceeding must be submitted by June 3, 2014. Final briefs, arguments, and summations must be submitted by July 18, 2014. Post-hearing comments and briefs can be submitted by:
- Visiting the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket ID# OSHA-2010-0034.
- Faxing OSHA’s Docket Office at 202-693-1648 (for comments of 10 pages or less).
- Sending hard-copy documents (via regular mail, express delivery, courier, or hand delivery) to the OSHA Docket Office, Technical Data Center, Room N-2625, OSHA, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20210.
For more information about the post-hearing comment period, please refer to the:
Scientific and Technical Resources
- American Thoracic Society Statement on Adverse Effects of Crystalline Silica Exposure
- American Lung Association Web Page on Silicosis
- National Toxicology Program Report on Respirable Crystalline Silica
- International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph on Crystalline Silica
- American Cancer Society Findings on Workplace-Related Cancer
- Working Safely with Silica
Safety & Health Topics Page on Crystalline Silica
OSHA’s Safety & Health Topics page on Crystalline Silica is the Agency’s main resource for information about silica hazards, health effects, control methods, and other standards applicable to protecting workers who are exposed to respirable crystalline silica on the job.
MSHA Silicosis Prevention web page
The Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) provides information about silica hazards specific to the mining industry. Miners and mine employers can find useful information about hazard identification and control from this page.
NIOSH Silica Information web page
The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) has conducted extensive research about health hazard identification and control for respirable crystalline silica.
Archived Silica Web Chat
2013 “Deadly Dust” Silica Video
Many American families have seen first-hand the tragic effects of silicosis. Watch OSHA’s new “Deadly Dust” video to learn more about their stories and how dust control methods can help limit workers’ exposure to crystalline silica.
Contractors adopt innovative concrete drill jig to reduce silica exposures during concrete drilling operations. Read more.
1938 “Stop Silicosis” Video
This 1938 video features former Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins (1933-1945), and describes both the hazards associated with silica exposure and the U.S. Department of Labor’s early efforts to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for America’s working men and women. Although tremendous progress has been made since this video was produced, evidence indicates that a substantial number of workers still suffer from silica-related diseases. This video is available for download at http://archive.org/details/StopSilicosis
What is Crystalline Silica?
Respirable crystalline silica – very small particles at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand you might encounter on beaches and playgrounds – is created during work operations involving stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, mortar, and industrial sand. Exposures to respirable crystalline silica can occur when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, and crushing these materials. These exposures are common in brick, concrete, and pottery manufacturing operations, as well as during operations using industrial sand products, such as in foundries, sand blasting, and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations in the oil and gas industry.