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Published: June, 2013; Vol 10, Num 1

 

Silica Competent Persons: What Should They Know?

By Scott Schneider

"When OSHA moves forward on a silica standard, which we hope will be soon, it needs to utilize the experience and expertise of competent persons to make sure the work is done safely," says LIUNA General President Terry O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan joins the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO (BCTD) in stressing the need to add requirements for a competent person in the new standard so that it can be fully effective.

Alternate description

LIUNA General President
Terry O'Sullivan

While silica exposures are relatively easy to control with water and ventilation, the standard will likely rely on task-based exposure assessments and not require as much air sampling as the traditional OSHA health standard. In a task-based controls environment, a competent person is needed to make sure exposures are properly assessed and managed and to know when industrial hygiene help is needed. What does this competent person need to know? The American Industrial Hygiene Association's (AIHA) Construction Committee has developed a helpful guide.

It describes a course of study for a “silica competent person” which should include:

  • Introduction to what a “competent person” is and does
  • Introduction to what silica is and where it is found in construction
  • Overview of the hazards of silica and common exposures in construction
  • How to determine if silica is present
  • Potential worker exposure levels to silica from common construction tasks (without controls)
  • Engineering controls and respirator use to reduce silica exposure, including proper maintenance of controls
  • Oversight and quality assurance of a program's effectiveness
  • Review of OSHA’s silica standard (once it is final)
  • Responsibilities and procedures for the competent person (e.g., when he or she should stop work and require corrections)
  • Mock job examples to practice decisions about appropriate actions to take

Most OSHA construction standards require “boots on the ground” or on-site competent persons to ensure effective implementation. Typically, competent persons are designated by management from among the most knowledgeable on the jobsite. LIUNA members are often selected for this role.

"Experienced Laborers on the jobsite know best how to prevent exposures to silica," says O'Sullivan. "That’s what competent persons are all about and why this new publication will help."

CPWR has a one-stop website on how to prevent a silica hazard and protect workers. The LHSFNA publishes the following for Laborers, LIUNA training centers and LIUNA signatory employers:

  • Controlling Silica Exposures in Construction (pamphlet)
  • Model Silica Protection Program for Contractors (manual)
  • Silicosis (DVD)
  • What Physicians Need to Know about Silicosis in Construction, Demolition and Renovation Workers (pamphlet)
  • Silicosis (health alert)

The publications can be ordered through the online Publications Catalogue.

[Scott Schneider is the LHSFNA's Director of Occupational Safety and Health.]