Michigan On-Site Consultation Helps Reduce Silica Exposures
In 2021, Michigan (MIOSHA) On-Site Consultation made a marketing visit to a small west Michigan business that fabricates stone (e.g., granite and marble) counters with saws, CNC machines, and polishing tools. The products are made for both residential and commercial customers. The reason for the visit was based on the likelihood of silica exposures and the OSHA/MIOSHA silica emphasis program. Following explanation of the On-Site Consultation Program, the employer agreed to an initial hazard survey consultation.
During the initial visit on February 11, 2021, five employees were monitored, and it was determined that all were exposed to silica above the action level (AL) of 25 μg/m3 as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) with two polishing employees exposed above the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 μg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA. Employees were not wearing respiratory protection, had no posted regulated area, no silica training, no silica medical surveillance, and no silica exposure control plan.
The consultant also found a lack of a full hazard communication program, lack of an eyewash with Category 1A chemical handling, and lack of a developed and implemented written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan.
The employer quickly started using the existing general exhaust ventilation. It improved floor cleaning by using water and an existing floor cleaning machine. The second Consultation visit determined that employees were no longer over the PEL but were still exposed to silica above the AL. With the addition of four high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters placed in the middle of the shop, exposures fell below the AL. The employer improved the ventilation, implemented full silica and hazard communication programs, and improved employee involvement to help reduce the silica exposures below the AL.
The company was able to eliminate its silica exposure issue with the help of the MIOSHA On-site Consultation Program. Since the first On-site Consultation visit, employee 8-hour TWA exposures to respirable crystalline silica had gone from a high of 110 µg/m3 (220% of PEL) to 11 µg/m3 (22% of the PEL).
The OSHA On-Site Consultation Program offers no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health services to small and medium-sized businesses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories, with priority given to high hazard worksites. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards and how to fix them, provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards, train and educate workers, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs. On-Site Consultation services are separate from OSHA enforcement efforts. To locate the OSHA On-Site Consultation program nearest you, call 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit https://www.osha.gov/consultation.