Respirator and Medical Surveillance Requirements
Respirator use in the new standard depends on which compliance option employers choose to follow. In all cases, the new standard mandates engineering and work practice controls as the primary methods to control exposures.
- Table 1: Respirator requirements are listed by task, with different requirements for exposures more than or less than four hours. When following Table 1 fully and completely, most tasks do not require respirators because effective engineering controls reduce exposure by about 90% in most cases.
- Performance Option or Scheduled Sampling: Respirators are required when objective data or sampling shows that exposures will exceed the 50 µg/m3 permissible exposure limit (PEL).
The new standard requires employers to offer medical exams at no cost to employees and in a convenient location if they will be expected to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year due to silica exposure. The employer does not have to consider past exposures to silica or past respirator use. They only have to anticipate the number of days the employee is expected to wear a respirator while in their employment in the coming year. Once taken, the exam is good for three years, even is the employee goes to another jobsite or employer.
After the exam, the employee gets a copy of the results and a copy of the physician's report, which also goes to the employer.
These requirements are in addition to OSHA's existing respirator standard (1910.34), which is required for all operations where workers are required to wear a respirator.