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Cal/OSHA Update: ETS for Respirable Crystalline Silica

Cal Safety Solution would like to inform you about the recent developments regarding Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for Respirable Crystalline Silica.

On July 20, 2023, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, also known as Cal/OSHA Standards Board, reviewed public comments regarding Petition File No. 597. This petition proposes an amendment to Title 8, General Industry Safety Orders, Section 5204 of the California Code of Regulations. The proposed amendment aims to establish stricter control measures for workers in the engineered stone fabrication industry regarding their exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

The Cal/OSHA Standards Board is currently considering Petition File No. 597 as an emergency temporary standard due to the increasing number of cases involving workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica. If approved, this temporary standard would be in effect for twelve months and would enforce more stringent measures to control and mitigate the potential risks associated with respirable crystalline silica for workers in the engineered stone fabrication industry.

Cal/OSHA Standards Board received a petition from the Western Occupational and Environment Medical Association (WOEMA), they requested the ETS with the following guidelines:

1. Scope: These regulations apply to workplaces utilizing engineered stone with a high silica content, greater than 50 percent.

2. Regulated Areas: Designated areas must be established to restrict employee access to places where artificial stone is fabricated. This prevents the spread of potentially harmful silica dust.

3. Dust Suppression: Fabrication of artificial stone must be conducted using water as a dust suppressant. This mandatory measure helps prevent the release of harmful silica dust into the air.

4. Respiratory Protection: All individuals engaged in artificial stone fabrication are required to wear airline respirators or power air-purifying respirators (PAPRs). These respiratory devices offer effective protection against inhalation of hazardous silica dust.

5. Reporting to Cal/OSHA: Employers must annually document their compliance by reporting the use of Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) to the Cal/OSHA Occupational Carcinogen Control Unit. It involves sending a letter in accordance with Section 5203 Carcinogen Report of Use Requirements.

6. Strengthened Penalties: Violations of these guidelines will be treated as serious offenses, resulting in stronger penalties to ensure strict adherence and discourage non-compliance.

7. Updated Guidance: Cal/OSHA will provide timely and relevant guidance, including information on computerized tomography (CT) exams and other diagnostic studies. This will enable employers and employees to stay informed about the latest advancements in occupational health.

8. Reporting Silicosis Diagnoses: It is mandatory for physicians or licensed healthcare professionals (PLHCP) to promptly inform Cal/OSHA of any diagnoses of moderate severity or worse related to silicosis. This reporting requirement aids in monitoring and managing cases of occupational silica exposure.

Revised drafting of Silica ETS expected in coming months. 

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