SRF Funding Dodges Funding Bullet – This Year

March 2014, Vol. 69 No. 3

The new OSHA proposed rule requiring greater protection for workers engaged in sandblasting may require interstate and intrastate companies and their contractors doing digging to probably replace the respirators they currently use. That is because the Occupational and Safety Administration wants to reduce its current permissible exposure limit (PEL) for crystalline silica from 100 to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air and add a new action level of only 25 micrograms. Pipeline companies generally cannot control dust to the current level via engineering controls, so they give employees personal protective equipment (PPE), which is a legal option.

"With regard to PPE, it is unknown what the effect will be on the perceived adequacy of the current respirators given that the protection factor for each type of respirator is based on established exposure limits," says Lisa Beal, vice-president, environment and construction policy, INGAA. "Therefore, lowering the PEL may require replacement of the respirators that are currently in use. The replacement costs will be substantial, but an even bigger concern is that this is a cost associated with replacing equipment that is adequately mitigating the hazard. In other words, this is a real cost without a tangible benefit.”