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G2 Investigates Silica Inhalation Exposure Risk at Manufacturing Company

Earlier this year, a manufacturing company in Oregon contacted G2 to perform a respirable crystalline silica personal exposure monitoring on their employees. The company manufactures a powder product that contains silica, and day-to-day, employees are at risk of inhaling silica when bagging the product.

Project Background

Silica inhalation can cause very serious health issues. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) identified silica exposure as a serious threat to nearly two million U.S. workers, including more than 100,000 workers in high risk jobs such as abrasive blasting, foundry work, stone cutting, rock drilling, quarry work and tunneling. Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. Breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal. The respirable silica dust enters the lungs and causes the formation of scar tissue, thus reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. There is no cure for silicosis.

Monitoring Employees at the Facility

To determine the silica inhalation exposure risk to employees, G2 monitored company staff members in an assessment. The industrial hygiene assessment included personal sampling for RCS and respirable dust. Personal sampling for the air contaminants were performed on four employees, including a wet plant operator, two dry plant operators and a yard operator.

The results of the assessment were then compared to the Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division (OR-OSHA) Action Level (AL) and Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for silica.

The results indicated that two of the four individuals that were monitored had personal exposure levels above the OR-OSHA AL for silica.

G2 Recommendations

Because of the serious nature of the exposure, G2 provided extensive recommendations to the manufacturing company. Per the OR-OSHA Silica Rule, when employers are found to be above the recommended levels for silica exposure, they must conduct the following actions:

  1. Undergo repeat monitoring within six months of the initial exposure monitoring event.
  2. Offer medical surveillance for employees, which includes an initial baseline medical exam within 30 days of the initial assessment and at least every three years. Medical exams must include an exam of the respiratory system, chest x-rays, pulmonary function tests and others as deemed appropriate by the physician or other licensed healthcare professionals.
  3. Use engineering and work practice controls to reduce and maintain employee exposures to RCS to the lowest possible level. In this case, this would conceivability include local exhaust ventilation at the point of the bagging operation to minimize employees’ RCS exposures during this task.
  4. Ban dry sweeping or dry brushing where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to RCS unless wet sweeping, HEPA-filtered vacuuming or other methods that minimize the likelihood of exposure are not feasible. Employers can not use compressed air to clean clothing or surfaces where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to RCS.
  5. Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that contains at least: a description of the tasks in the workplace that involve exposures to RCS, a description of the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection used to limit employees exposure to RCS for each task, and a description of the housekeeping measures used to limit employee exposure to RCS.
  6. Review and evaluate the effectiveness of the written exposure control plan at least annually and update it as necessary. Make the written exposure control plan readily available for examination and copying, upon request, to each employee, their representatives and/or regulatory entities.
  7. Individually notify each affected employee in writing of the results of this assessment or post the results in an appropriate location accessible to all affected employees within 15 working days of receiving any results of an exposure assessment. Review the results of this evaluation with employees who are represented by this assessment.
  8. Make and maintain an accurate record of all exposure measurements taken to assess employee exposure to RCS in accordance with OAR 437-002-1064. Retain a copy of this report in accordance with OR-OSHA Medical and Exposure Records standard, 1910.1020 (the duration of employment, plus 30 years).

 
Following the assessment, G2 will continue to work with the manufacturing company to monitor conditions to ensure they remain in compliance with the posted silica levels and offer a safe work environment for their employees.

About G2 Consultants

G2 Consultants is a Northwest US based firm with nationwide capabilities. We provide full-service safety, industrial hygiene, occupational health, and environmental health consulting to public, private, and governmental sector clients. Our expertise covers regulatory compliance consulting, risk assessment, health hazard evaluations, waste management, and indoor air quality evaluations. The G2 team boasts over 80 years combined experience in workplace assessments, mold, asbestos, lead, respirator fit testing, training, and indoor environmental quality consulting. We pride ourselves on taking a fresh and innovative approach to our work and delivering on time and on budget.

Contact us today to help make sure your company is in compliance. Our team, made up of accredited professionals with extensive experience, can provide the tools and opportunity you need to keep your employees and workplace safe.

About the author: Noal Kraft
Noal is the Vice President of Operations at DKI/G2 Consultants Inc. With over 27 years of professional experience in the Industrial Hygiene and Health and Safety industry. He has worked on thousands of projects throughout the U.S.