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Silica standard could change for U.S. roads


August 26, 2013
By NAPA

August 23, 2013, Lanham,
Md. — The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
released a proposed permissible exposure level (PEL) for silica dust. The
proposed level is more stringent than the agency’s current regulations, but
thanks to the work of the Silica/Milling Machine Partnership the asphalt
industry is positioned to meet the new standard.

August 23, 2013, Lanham,
Md. — The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
released a proposed permissible exposure level (PEL) for silica dust. The
proposed level is more stringent than the agency’s current regulations, but
thanks to the work of the Silica/Milling Machine Partnership the asphalt
industry is positioned to meet the new standard.

 

The proposed PEL for
silica dust is now set at 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per
cubic meter of air (50 µg/m3). This is consistent with the National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) current recommended
exposure level (REL) for silica, and will provide greater protection for those
who work with materials that cause silica exposure. Silica, a known carcinogen,
is also known to cause silicosis, a restrictive lung disease.

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For the asphalt pavement
industry, dust from roadway milling operations is the greatest potential source
of silica exposure for workers. Steps to mitigate this hazard have been well
documented, and current milling-machine technology can ensure exposure levels
below the current OSHA standard.

 

Over the past decade,
the Silica/Milling Machine Partnership — which is 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.