OSHA Silica summary

The rule, which has been one of the agency's top priorities for years, lowers the PEL from the current standard of 100 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) to 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter, with an action level of 25 µg/m3 over an eight-hour time period.


Key points:

  • The new standard for silica exposure is 50 µg/m3 PEL.
  • Construction companies have one year to comply; General Industry and Maritime have two years to comply and the shale oil fracking industry has five years to comply (2020).
  • Construction companies have two options: 1) Follow the prescribed practices (Table 1) for common tasks without monitoring, or 2) Comply with same monitoring as General Industry and Maritime.
  • Calls for engineering controls to be put on place ahead of PPE


The all-important Table 1 begins on page 1718 of the Final Rule. This table lists types of silica-generating activities and the respiratory protection needed to keep workers safe for each activity.


Exposures to crystalline silica dust occur in common workplace operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing of concrete, brick, block, rock, and stone products (such as construction tasks), and operations using sand products (such as in glass manufacturing, foundries, sand blasting, and hydraulic fracturing).

Approximately 2.3 million people in the U.S. are exposed to silica at work. OSHA estimates these standards will save the lives of more than 600 workers each year and prevent more than 900 cases of silicosis each year.

What industries are affected?

  • Construction
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Pottery products
  • Structural clay products
  • Concrete products
  • Foundries
  • Dental laboratories
  • Paintings and coatings
  • Jewelry production
  • Refractory products
  • Ready-mix concrete
  • Cut stone and stone products
  • Abrasive blasting in maritime, construction, and general industry
  • Refractory furnace installation and repair
  • Railroad transportation
  • Oil and gas (Fracking)


Current customer base

Standard for general industry and maritime requires employers to:

  • Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it may be at or above an action level of 25 μg/m3(micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day;
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit of 50 μg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour day;
  • Limit workers’ access to areas where they could be exposed above the PEL;
  • Use dust controls to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL;
  • Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL;
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica where feasible alternatives are available;
  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers;
  • Offer medical exams — including chest X-rays and lung function tests — every three years for workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year;
  • Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure; and
  • Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

When are employers required to comply with the standard?

General industry and maritime employers must comply with all requirements of the standard by June 23, 2018, with exception of medial surveillance and fracking have extended dates


About two million construction workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in over 600,000 workplaces. OSHA estimates that more than 840,000 of these workers are exposed to silica levels that exceed the new permissible exposure limit (PEL).

Tasks such as using masonry saws, grinders, drills, jackhammers and handheld powered chipping tools; operating vehicle-mounted drilling rigs; milling; operating crushing machines; and using heavy equipment for demolition

What does the standard require?

The standard requires employers to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica and to take other steps to protect workers.

The standard provides flexible alternatives, especially useful for small employers. Employers can either use a control method laid out in Table 1 of the construction standard, or they can measure workers’ exposure to silica and independently decide which dust controls work best to limit exposures to the PEL in their workplaces.

Regardless of which exposure control method is used, all construction employers covered by the standard are required to meet above:

Be sure to review Table 1 page 1718 in Final Rule

Table 1 matches common construction tasks with dust control methods, so employers know exactly what they need to do to limit worker exposures to silica. The dust control measures listed in the table include methods known to be effective, like using water to keep dust from getting into the air or using ventilation to capture dust. In some operations, respirators may also be needed.

Page 420 Target industries by SIC Code and employees

Page 430 Silica exposure by Job Category

Page 547 Cost to industry by SIC Code

Page 735 Cost to construction


Additional information on OSHA’s silica rule can be found at www.osha.gov/silica.

Why Pureflo ESM?

NISOH approved PAPR with HEPA Filter, exceeds requirements for N95 and APF of 10

APF of 25 or 1000 (Assigned Protection Factor)

  • Face Seals APF 25
  • Hood (Neck Seal) APF 1000
  • Both are loose fitting and protect up to 100 time greater than half-mask respirator
    • Fit users with beards
    • No Fit testing
    • Keeps fines out of hair


Electronic Management System: Takes the guess work (Ping Pong Ball) out of operations

ANSI Approved Head, Eye & Face protection

No waist belt, battery or blower. No breathing tube

Respirator provides a high level of worker comfort and acceptance while providing the employer the knowledge he has his workers in the best protection available no matter what the exposure.

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