OSHA Releases Updates for Silica Dust

Asphalt industry says it is positioned to meet OSHA’s new standards.

August 29, 2013
CDR Staff
Association Activities Legislation & Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a proposed permissible exposure level (PEL) for silica dust. While the proposed level is more stringent than OSHA’s current regulations, the asphalt industry says it is positioned to meet the standards. The group notes that the work of its Silica/Milling Machine Partnership is a step that will allow asphalt producers to meet the standards.

The proposed PEL for silica dust is now set at 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air, consistent with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) current recommended exposure level (REL) for silica. The new standards will provide greater protection for those who work with materials that cause silica exposure.

Over the past decade, the Silica/Milling Machine Partnership—made up of the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), milling machine manufacturers, labor, academia and NIOSH—has worked to identify simple retrofits for existing milling machines that effectively reduce potential silica exposure below OSHA’s new proposed PEL. More advanced systems that could reduce dust and potential silica exposure even further have also been studied.

“The partnership is committed to doing the best work possible to ensure that workers are safe and that any silica exposure is reduced to the absolutely lowest level possible,” said Tony Bodway, operations manager for Wisconsin-based contractor Payne & Dolan Inc. and chairman of the Silica/Milling Machine Partnership. “These are complicated field trials, with lots of coordination and effort, all while working alongside government occupational health agency personnel. Everyone involved has been focused on ensuring we do our best.”

While the proposed PEL is achievable, as part of the federal rulemaking process, NAPA will file comments offering suggestions to help better calibrate the rule to the industry’s exposure potential.

NIOSH is expected to release in the coming months a best practices document for roadway milling based on the work of the Silica/Milling Machine Partnership. This document will provide a simple roadmap to ensure that any dust generated during milling operations is well-controlled and that workers experience a safe workplace.