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Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica
On March 24, OSHA announced its final rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The final rule sets a new permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air calculated as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA). OSHA estimates that, when fully effective, the new rule will save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis annually. The rule comprises two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime. Both standards will take effect on June 23, 2016. Employers covered by the construction standard will have one year after the effective date to comply with most requirements. General industry and maritime employers will have two years, until June 23, 2018. Employers in hydraulic fracturing also have until June 2018 to comply with all provisions except engineering controls to limit exposures to the new PEL, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021, five years from the rule’s effective date. The following information was selected from the
Federal Register
and OSHA’s Web page on the new rule.
From the Federal Register notice “Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica”:
“OSHA … concludes that exposure to respirable crystalline silica constitutes a significant risk of material impairment to health and that the final rule will substantially lower that risk. The Agency considers the level of risk remaining at the new PEL to be significant. However, based on the evidence evaluated during the rulemaking process, OSHA has determined a PEL of 50 ?g/m3 is appropriate because it is the lowest level feasible for all affected industries.”
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Editor's Note: Fumes vs. Vapors
 
The original wording from the Center for Public Integrity's report "Common Solvent Keeps Killing Workers, Consumers" mistakenly refers to "fumes" in a context where "vapors" is the correct term. The Synergist has corrected this error in the digital edition.
 
Unfortunately, the error found its way into the print version of the November issue. The Synergist regrets the error and will publish a correction in the December issue.
 
Ed Rutkowski, editor