On September 23, 2017, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforced a new standard to protect construction workers from the dangers of inhaling silica dust. Surface preparation specialist, National Flooring Equipment, supports the implementation of the regulation and aims to advise employers on how to keep staff safe when working with this material.

Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite and other minerals. In surface preparation, flooring materials, such as concrete and stone, release crystalline silica into the air when they are cut, exposing employees to harmful dust.

OSHA found that 90 per cent of the 2.3 million US workers that are exposed to silica dust are in the construction industry. There are already health acts in place to protect employers from high exposure to harmful materials such as crystalline silica. However, employers in the construction industry must now introduce more standards to reduce crystalline silica exposure, protecting its employees.

“National Flooring Equipment has always taken measures to educate contractors in implementing safe floor preparation protocol to reduce the amount of silica inhalation,” explained Tom Dunn, director of major accounts at National Flooring Equipment. “Using demolition equipment, such as surface preparation machines, can be dangerous if contractors do not consider health and safety risks, such as dust inhalation.

“The new silica standard will alert employers to the importance of protecting workers from illnesses caused by crystalline silica and improve construction site safety. All employers must implement a plan to reduce silica dust at work, train staff on how to limit exposure and offer medical exams to workers to monitor their health.

“Staff at National Flooring Equipment understand the precautions needed to prevent dust inhalation. We support the new OSHA standard as we provide rental companies and contractors with dust collection equipment as well as hands-on equipment training to promote safe and efficient surface preparation,” concluded Dunn.

OSHA delayed the original implementation date to better educate employers on how to reduce the risk of silica dust inhalation in construction work. By reducing the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, OSHA aims to reduce illnesses caused by the dust, such as silicosis, lung cancer and kidney disease and estimates to save over 600 lives.

To find out more about the key provisions of the standard, visit the OSHA website.

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