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2024. OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE TO CRYSTALLINE SILICA
Priority: Economically Significant. Major status under 5 USC 801 is undetermined.
Unfunded Mandates: Undetermined
Legal Authority: 29 USC 655(b); 29 USC 657
CFR Citation: Not yet determined
Legal Deadline: None
Abstract: In 1994, OSHA initiated the Priority Planning Process. This process was aimed at identifying the top priority safety and health hazards. Crystalline silica was one of the priorities designated by this process for rulemaking. OSHA stated that crystalline silica would be added to OSHA's regulatory calendar as other standards were completed and resources became available. Silica exposure remains a serious threat to nearly 2 million U.S. workers including more than 100,000 in high risk jobs, including sandblasters, foundry workers, stonecutters, rock drillers, quarry workers and tunnelers. The seriousness of the health hazard is indicated by continuing deaths from accelerated silicosis in sandblasters and rock drillers and by recent studies which demonstrate a statistically significant increase in lung cancer among silica-exposed workers. In October 1996, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified crystalline silica as "carcinogenic to humans." Exposure studies indicate that some workers are still exposed to very high levels. While OSHA currently has a permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica (10 mg/m3 divided by the percent of silica in the dust + 2, respirable dust and 30 mg/m3 divided by the percent of silica in the dust + 2, total dust), over 30% of OSHA-collected silica samples from 1982 through 1991 exceeded it. Additionally, recent studies suggest that the current OSHA standard is insufficient to protect against silicosis. For example, a recent study concluded that a 45-year exposure under the current OSHA standard would lead to a lifetime risk of silicosis of 35% to 47%. OSHA plans to publish a proposed rule on crystalline silica because the agency has concluded that there will be no significant progress in the prevention of silica-related diseases without the adoption of a full and comprehensive silica standard, including provisions for product substitution, engineering controls, training and education, respiratory protection and medical screening and surveillance. A full standard will improve worker protection, ensure adequate prevention programs, and further reduce silica-related diseases.
Small Entities Affected: Undetermined
Government Levels Affected: Undetermined
Agency Contact: Adam Finkel, Director, Health Standards Programs,
Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 200
Constitution Avenue NW., Room N3718, FP Building, Washington, DC 20210
Phone: 202 219-7075
Fax: 202 219-7125
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