OSHA’s Silica Amendment: Increase Profits Before Politics

OSHA’s amended Silica regulation is part of the solution, to unbeneficial business practices. This revision should be interpreted as an opportunity to increase profitability with the support of an effective plan. Regulations such as the amended Silica regulation are set with the intention to change behaviors and processes within organizations, which in turn will generate profits.

What is Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS)?

After 45 years, OSHA has announced the first revised regulation regarding the protection of workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Crystalline silica exists in sand, stone, solid concrete, and other materials. Exposure may occur during, but is not limited to tasks such as, cutting, sawing, and crushing of these materials, which can produce silica dust. The inhalation of Silica dust can result in lung diseases such as silicosis and one of the most deadly cancers, lung cancer.

Despite the substantial progress in eliminating silicosis, silicosis deaths continue to occur. This “progress” may only be a result from the increase of outsourcing of jobs. The lowest number of deaths ever recorded was 88, in 2011. Currently, approximately 2 million U.S. workers remain potentially exposed to respirable crystalline silica.

What is the new regulation?

OSHA’s new permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica is 50 micrograms per cubic meter (50 mg/m3) of air averaged during an 8-hour shift. This now matches the NIOSH standard, which was previously released in 1974. “Upon decades of research, this rule will enable workers the right to earn a living without sacrificing their health,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez.

As threatened as businesses and organizations may feel, the update of this regulation is actually intended to encourage businesses and organizations to address the problem of Silica exposure. Regulations as a whole are not set to cause economical harm to businesses and organizations, they are set to change behaviors and processes in ways for the regulation to stick.

Since NOISH had previously set a PEL for respirable crystalline silica is 50 mg/m3 of air averaged during an 8-hour shift, it is clear that the data to support these types of regulations advancements is often available, while the timeline for regulations are often delayed. With this in mind, it actually would be financially beneficial for employers to invest in proper data collection and analysis of exposure at the their facility to not only ensure protection to their employees prior to the advancement of regulations, but to resolve long term problems.

Plan for and Profit from the amended regulation.

Taking a proactive approach will not only ensure compliance to updated regulations, it will also cause facilities to think about ways to increase profitability through their routine processes and behaviors of their employees.

Businesses and organizations should have a mindset of increasing your profitability in any area regardless of how small the profit margin.  Small profits in multiple focuses of a business will increase the over all return.

To obtain this lucrative mindset, there needs to be a plan. I’m not talking about that plan which is currently sitting on the shelf and is collecting dust (possible Silica dust). Those unprofitable plans usually state compliance when an organization is not. Often times, the facility manager does not understand the language in the plan, which, they paid for. This is a result from a consultant disregarding the interpretation of a plan that lacks distinguishing characteristics and in turn will likely be ineffective, to the facility manager. The plan must to be intended for problem resolution and for long-term success. This causes the plan to be ultimately geared for results in the form of profits.

It is no disbelief that few organizations are interested in the implementation of safety plans, since most are costly, and ineffective. In order to be operational, the plan should be equipped with the following components:

  • Employee engagement
  • Management commitment
  • A proper hazard assessment
  • Internal safety awareness
  • A final audit when this framework is put into place

OSHA’s amended Silica regulation is intended to increase the interest and engagement of staff. Management’s role is to support staff by encouraging safe practices and discourage bad behavior, because not only is that where OSHA cases come from, but that is where revenues are lost.

While considering making alterations to business practices due to an OSHA regulation such as Silica, it should be understood that the regulation is part of the solution, however it is not the complete solution.

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