Crystalline silica is found in many construction materials, including concrete, stone, and brick masonry. The inhalation of silica dust is thought to contribute to the formation of many health hazards, including lung cancer, silicosis, COPD, and kidney disease. Estimates have shown that silica exposure kills 600 American workers and results in 900 new cases of silicosis each year, OSHA has been working on tightening its rules regarding the exposure to this type of dust for several years and has finally issued a new “final rule,” it’s first update on the rule since 1971.
The updated rule, which will go into effect for the construction industry on June 23, 2017, specifies the following:
Exposure limits reduced
Workers are now limited to being exposed to only 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over an 8 hour shift. This is 5 times less than the previous allowable limit of 250 micrograms. 1 microgram is equivalent to one millionth of a gram.
Requirement of engineering controls and/or PPE
Water and ventilation practices to limit worker exposure are required when exposures exceed the allowable limit. When the engineering practices are not enough to keep dust levels under the limit, the employer is then required to provide respiratory protection for workers. The employer is also responsible for training employees and providing medical exams for highly exposed workers
Table of specified controls
Clearly, not many people understand what 50 micrograms of dust looks like, nor should they. Because of that, OSHA has included a table of specified controls in order to clear up uncertainties for construction employers. For example, when workers are using a stationary masonry saw, they should be using a saw that is equipped with a water delivery system that continuously feeds water to the blade. In doing so, they are not required to wear respiratory protection. Handheld power saws should also be used with a water delivery system, but require a respiratory protection with a factor of APF 10 when outdoors and exposed for greater than 4 hours and all the time, when indoors. Click the link above to see the rest.
Many construction organizations are unhappy with the new rule, including all of the members of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC). According to the group, which includes the Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors, National Association of Home Building, among many others, OSHA has “not met its burden of demonstrating that the proposal is technologically and economically feasible.“ Though the group ultimately has the desire to protect the industry’s employees, it wants to make sure new rulings don’t put an undue pressure on employers that would not allow them to live up to their end of the bargain.
“Instead of crafting a new standard that the construction industry can comply with, administration officials have instead opted to set a new standard that is well beyond the capabilities of current air filtration and dust removal technologies,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, in a press release. “Our concern is that this new rule will do little to improve workplace health and safety, which is why we will continue our review of the new measure, consult with our members and decide on a future course of action that will best serve the health and safety of millions of construction workers across the country.”
In a document released in March of 2013, the CISC not only deemed the new rule technologically and economically infeasible, but also unnecessary. According to the Center of Disease Control, silica related deaths have dropped by 93 percent from 1968 to 2007. The organization also stated that it believes OSHA’s estimate for how much the new rule would cost the industry was very far from reality. While OSHA expects the program to cost $511 million for companies to comply, the CISC estimates total costs to be almost $5 BILLION.
No matter which side you fall on, one thing’s for sure. These two sides need to come to some sort of compromise to make this program successful.
The following is a guest post written by David B. Lever.
When construction sites are safer, then productivity increases as well as profits. More construction safety means less time lost due to accidents, lower insurance premiums, and less money spent repairing damaged equipment.
Jobsite pressures, such as time crunches and monetary issues can quickly tempt otherwise good people into making some pretty poor decisions. There are also others who use their construction business as a front for other illegal activities. Many people were arrested for a variety of reasons in 2016 and the list below should serve as both a reminder and a warning for those considering making bad decisions.
Last year, a devastating crane collapse killed more than 100 people and injured more than 200 others in Mecca, located in Saudi Arabia. Reports indicated that, at the time of the collapse, the boom was erected approximately 620 feet (190m).
There’s a small, but growing, fear in the construction industry that robots will soon make construction jobs obsolete, but, in all reality, the next logical step is for technology and robotics to first enhance the jobs of human construction workers. There is a lot of money being poured into the industry every day, looking for the next big piece of technology to take over jobsites by storm. A few recent examples are a bionic suit aimed at construction workers and an augmented reality smart hard hat. The next idea may make scaling walls at construction sites extremely easy.
One thing almost everyone agrees on: America’s infrastructure needs fixing.
Another thing most people agree on: No one enjoys the traffic congestion that results from bridge, road, and utility construction work.
As the construction labor shortage rages on throughout the industry, there have been concerns of how overworked employees or undertrained staff may affect job site safety. Although there’s no definitive proof that this problem is causing an increase in construction deaths and injuries, recently released Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows trends pointing in the wrong direction.
Trenches are a construction jobsite hazard that happen on nearly every construction site involving dirt work, but, all too often their dangers are underestimated. In fact, trench related deaths in 2016 have more than doubled as compared to 2015. There’s no excuse for allowing a trench related death to happen, but it’s rare that job site supervision suffers criminal charges after one occurs. After the death of a 22 year old New York construction worker, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office took a hard stance against those responsible and announced formally sentenced the on-site foreman last week.
A large focus of the construction industry, especially in recent years, is jobsite safety. Many large companies have significant resources set aside specifically for safety, but, unfortunately, that may be impossible for many small and medium sized construction companies to handle. As of the first quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there are over 768,000 construction companies currently operating in the private industry and over 6.7 million construction workers between them. That’s a lot of companies and workers to keep safe throughout the year.
Trench collapse deaths are easily preventable. I’ll say it again: trench collapse deaths are easily preventable. So if they’re preventable, how do they continue to happen every year? Ignorance to safety rules, lack of supervision, pressures of time and money, and sometimes, outright laziness are all factors in trench related deaths and injuries. I’ve been on too many jobsites in my relatively young construction career that have extremely poor procedures for working in trenches and I’ve gotten every excuse in the book. The vast majority don’t even understand the basic requirements. At 4 feet deep, you need to provide a means of egress, at 5 feet deep you need proper protective systems, and keep soil and other materials 2 feet away from the edge of the trench. Those are the basics, everyone should know them.
One of the challenges with construction is determining how your work can and will affect the existing conditions surrounding your job site. That’s why it’s increasingly important to not only perform proper due diligence procedures, but also react to the findings. That, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen and could potentially be what caused a massive sinkhole in Fukuoka, Japan, last week.