If respirators will be used there are certain rules that must be followed, Stille adds. A written respirator program must be put in place, respirators should never be altered or tampered with, and all employees should be trained on how to properly wear and work with the respirators.
Prevention of silica exposure can start even before the first cut is made. Stille suggests contractors pre-plan all work, evaluating the potential for creation and/or existence of airborne crystalline silica. If exposure is present, she says contractors should monitor the air to determine the amount of airborne crystalline silica. And if respirators will be used, make sure they are used properly and in compliance with OSHA regulations.
California has taken control of dust exposure one step further. In October 2008, Cal OSHA adopted a new regulation requiring the use of water or vacuum dust control systems with the use of power tools when cutting, coring, drilling or grinding concrete or masonry materials, says Cal OSHA Division Chief Len Welsh. This allows Cal OSHA to cite for violating a specific regulation rather than a general standard. Welsh says the California reg is pragmatic and simple enough that other states may look to adopt it in the future.
OSHA & CSDA Alliance
OSHA and the Concrete Sawing and Drilling Association have formed an alliance to work together to provide information, guidance and access to training for contractors involved in concrete sawing and drilling. The alliance's goal is to help protect employees' health in the workplace. Minimizing employee exposure to silica dust is just one of the issues the alliance is working on educating contractors about.
In 2007, the alliance published its "Reducing Silica Exposure" fact sheet. To view the fact sheet and learn more about the alliance and what it does, go to www.osha.gov/dcsp/alliances/csda/csda.html.
Additional Resources that Build on the Topics of this Article
Checklist for Employee Exposure Monitoring
OSHA Silica eTool
Crystalline Silica Exposure in the Construction Industry
Cal OSHA Control of Employee Dust Exposure