OSHA to Release Questions and Answers Regarding the Silica Rule

OSHA to Release Questions and Answers Regarding the Silica Rule

- Update from MCAA

K760 photo.JPG

MCAA

Silica Update

An Important Update On Silica

We have learned that OSHA will be releasing approximately 300 questions and answers regarding the silica rule. They are clarifications to the rule and will help contractors understand the rule better. Below is a quick summary from the CISC attorney giving you a summary about the questions. The MCAA worked in conjunction with the coalition on these questions. You will find several questions specific to masonry installation and we are confident that you will find the clarifications helpful.

We want to remind you that if you have an OSHA inspection and silica is brought up, discussed or you receive a citation for silica, we would like to hear about it. We are tracking the enforcement side of silica across all the trades and where we see issues or interpretation discrepancies, we will be asking OSHA for clarification and explanation and if warranted a discharge of a potential citation if it was done in error. Communication will be key as we see the enforcement of this newer rule likely pick up in the months ahead.

Jeff Buczkiewicz, President, MCAA

OSHA's Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard For Construction

Frequently Asked Questions

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has just released a set of 53 Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) to provide guidance to employers and employees regarding OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standard for construction. Through the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (“CISC”), Mason Contractors Association of America was involved in the formulation of these FAQs.

The development of the FAQs stemmed from litigation filed against OSHA by numerous construction industry trade associations challenging the legality of OSHA’s rule. OSHA has also agreed to issue a Request for Information (“RFI”) on Table 1 to revise the Table to improve its utility. Mason Contractors Association of America will continue to look for ways to work with OSHA to improve the workability of this significant rule.

The FAQs are extensive and organized by topic. A short introductory paragraph is included for each group of questions and answers to provide background information about the underlying regulatory requirements. While employers are encouraged to review all of the FAQs, the following are some of the clarifications provided in the document.

Scope

The standard applies to all occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica in construction work, except where employee exposures will remain below an Action Level (“AL”) of 25 µg/m3, calculated as an 8-hour time weighted average (“TWA”), under any foreseeable conditions. The exception is intended to ensure that the standard does not apply to employees whose work results in only minimal silica exposures.

The FAQs clarify that many common construction tasks are likely to be outside the scope of the standard because they typically generate exposures below the AL. This includes mixing small amounts of mortar; mixing small amounts of concrete; mixing bagged, silica-free drywall compound; mixing bagged exterior insulation finishing system base and finish coat; and removing concrete formwork. In addition, tasks where employees are working with silica-containing products that are, and are intended to be, handled while wet, are likely to generate exposures below the AL (examples include finishing and hand wiping block walls to remove excess wet mortar, pouring concrete, and grouting floor and wall tiles). The FAQs also state that many silica-generating tasks performed for only 15 minutes or less a day will fall outside the scope of the standard.

Table 1

The standard permits employers to select from two methods of compliance to control exposures to respirable crystalline silica: “specified exposure control methods” commonly referred to as Table 1 or “alternative exposure control methods.” Employers that follow Table 1 do not have to assess employee exposures or separately ensure compliance with the permissible exposure limit. Table 1 includes common construction tasks.

The FAQs clarify that the Table 1 requirement that employers “operate and maintain” tools “in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions to minimize dust emissions,” applies only to manufacturer instructions that are related to dust control. Other information in these instructions, including recommended respiratory protection, do not have to be followed for purposes of the standard.

For a few tasks on Table 1, respirator requirements vary based on task duration, i.e., whether the task is performed for “less than or equal to four hours/shift” or “greater than four hours/shift.” The FAQs make clear that an employer does not have to track the exact amount of time that employees are performing a job throughout a shift to be in compliance with Table 1. Rather, before a task is performed, an employer must make a good-faith judgment about whether the task will take more than four hours. If the employer anticipates that an employee will be engaged in a task for more than four hours, the employer must provide the employee, at the beginning of the shift, the respiratory protection required in the “greater than four hours/shift” column on Table 1. If, in contrast, the employer anticipates that an employee will be engaged in a task for four hours or less, the employer needs to provide respiratory protection in accordance with the “less than or equal to four hours/shift” column. Finally, the FAQs clarify that handheld powered demolition hammers with bushing tools and tile saws are covered by Table 1.

Housekeeping

The standard includes requirements related to housekeeping on construction worksites. In particular, employers must not allow dry sweeping or dry brushing “where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica unless wet sweeping, HEPA-filtered vacuuming or other methods that minimize the likelihood of exposure are not feasible.” In addition, employers must not allow compressed air to be used to clean clothing or surfaces where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica unless: (1) the compressed air is used in conjunction with a ventilation system that effectively captures the dust cloud created by the compressed air, or (2) no alternative method is feasible.

The FAQs clarify that if employee exposure will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions, the prohibition on dry sweeping, dry brushing, and the use of compressed air for cleaning clothing and surfaces does not apply. They also clarify that the prohibition on these activities only apply to housekeeping activities, not to the use of these practices to perform a work task.

Written Exposure Control Program

The standard requires employers to establish and implement a written exposure control plan that contains at least the following elements: (1) a description of the tasks in the workplace that involve exposure to silica; (2) a description of the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection used to limit employee exposure to silica for each task; (3) a description of the housekeeping measures used to limit employee exposure to silica; and (4) a description of the procedures used to restrict access to work areas, when necessary, to minimize the number of employees exposed to silica and their level of exposure, including exposures generated by other employers or sole proprietors.

The FAQs clarify that the standard does not require employers to develop a new written plan for each job or worksite. It requires only that employers have a written exposure control plan applicable to each worksite. Employers may develop a single comprehensive written exposure control plan that covers all required aspects of the plan for all work activities at all worksites. The FAQs also clarify that when silica generating tasks are being performed, the standard is not intended to prohibit all employees from entering entire areas of a construction site simply because employees in those areas are performing some work involving the generation of silica. The rule calls only for minimizing the number of employees in the relevant work areas. The standard does not preclude employees from entering work areas where silica-generating tasks are occurring when it is necessary for them to do so.

Medical Surveillance

The standard requires construction employers to make medical surveillance available at no cost, and at a reasonable time and place, to any employee who is required by the silica standard to use a respirator for 30 or more days a year. An initial examination must be offered within 30 days of initial assignment, unless the employee has received a medical examination that meets the requirements of the standard within the last three years.

The employee will receive a written medical report within 30 days of each exam that includes: (1) a statement indicating the results of the medical examination; (2) any recommended limitations on the employee’s use of respirators; (3) any recommended limitations on the employee’s exposure to silica; and (4) a statement, if applicable, that the employee should be examined by a specialist. The employer must also obtain a written medical opinion within 30 days of each exam, which contains more limited information than the report to the employee. The opinion to the employer contains the date of the examination, a statement that the examination has met the requirements of the standard, and any recommended limitations on the employee’s use of respirators.

The FAQs make some important clarifications regarding medical surveillance. The silica standard does not preclude in-house health care providers from performing the required medical surveillance examinations. In addition, the standard does not preclude employers from receiving the same information that employees receive from the surveillance examination, if it is received for other purposes and through other means, such as through workers compensation records and proceedings. The FAQs also make clear that the standard requires employers to make medical surveillance available to qualifying employees, but does not require that employees participate in the surveillance.

More information and updates can be found at masoncontractors.org.

CTMCA Golden Trowel Entries Due 4-20-18

We are less than a month out from the 2018 Central Texas Mason Contractors Association (CTMCA) Golden Trowel Entires being due.  They're due electronically by April 20, 2018!

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to:

  • Promote the use of masonry
  • Promote your company
  • Show appreciation to architects for designing with masonry
  • Show appreciation to your team for the great work you do
  • Show appreciation to your General Contractor team for partnering with you on your projects

What do you need to do?  

  1. Download the rules and read them
  2. Download the entry form
  3. Take photos
  4. Submit photos and entry forms electronically
  5. Download this flyer and send to your friends or share this blog post with them!
  6. Attend the 2018 Golden Trowel Banquet on June 22 at The Archer Hotel in Austin, TX to celebrate masonry!

For help or assistance, contact either Liz Graves at lizg@specrents.com or Katherine Teel at katherinet@continentalcutstone.com.  We are happy to schedule a time to meet with you to help complete your submissions with your team!

Golden Trowel Flyer_March 2018 with Half Price Membership_Rev2.png

Masonry Madness 2018

Today's the day-

Masonry Madness 2018.

MG_0440.jpg

2018 Spec Mix Bricklayer 500®


The lineup includes:

  • MCAA's Masonry Skills Challege
    • Showcasing masonry apprentices from across the country
  • Spec Mix's Toughest Tender®
    • The world's toughest tenders compete to see who can set up their Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 workstation, with a chance to take home $2,500 cash and prizes.
  • MCAA's Fastest Trowel on the Block
    • Each contestant's goal is to complete as much of a 30 foot long wall as possible, using 8"x8"x16" CMU and the provided mortar in a twenty-minute heat.
  • Spec Mix Bricklayer 500®
    • Each team consists of a mason and mason tender building a 26 foot 8 inch, double wythe brick wall. The most bricks laid in one hour and counted under the quality rules wins the event, winning over $100,0
    • You can watch the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500® World Championship through the 2018 Live Webcast if you aren't lucky enough to be watching it in person at the World of Masonry in Las Vegas today.

Hydro Mobile is one of the many proud sponsors of the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500®.

 Check out those beautiful brand new Hydro Mobile M2s.... not to mention the shiny red Ford!

Check out those beautiful brand new Hydro Mobile M2s.... not to mention the shiny red Ford!

hydro-mobile1.png
smbl500-logo-sm.png

From Texas we have two representatives in the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500®

North Texas:  Mason – Mario Landeros - 554 Brick, Tender – Cristobal Anguiana, from Artisan Masonry – Royce City, TX

South Texas:  Mason - David Chavez - 691 Brick, Tender - Miguel Contreras, from Ranch Masonry, Houston, Texas.

Good Luck to all of today's contestants.  And to all of the spectators, enjoy a great display of the art of Masonry!!!

 

www.specrents.com

Post by:  Elizabeth "Liz" Graves, Sales Manager at Spec Rents, LLC.  Contact Liz at lizg@specrents.com

 

Going Up- Christus Spohn- Corpus Christi Shoreline Tower

Shadrock and Williams Masonry, Ltd. is currently completing the masonry on the new Christus Spohn- Corpus Christi Shoreline Tower.  The combination of their expertise in complex projects and quality equipment, such as the M2 and P Series Hydro Mobile, are helping to make this project a success.

 

imagejpeg (1).jpg
imagejpeg (3).jpg
imagejpeg (5).jpg
imagejpeg (6).jpg
imagejpeg.jpg

Spec Rents is proud to partner with Shadrock and Williams on this project to make it a safe and productive one.  Thanks to Mark Beers, at Shadrock and Williams, for allowing us to share these photos.

Post by:  Elizabeth "Liz" Graves, Sales Manager at Spec Rents, LLC.  Contact Liz at lizg@specrents.com

10 Ways to Show You're Thankful for Your Team

If you're like most employers, you're thankful for your team members.  Whether it's your VP of Operations, your mason tenders/laborers, or your bookkeeper, you're probably thankful for everything they do to keep things going.  As we near Thanksgiving, the holiday where we share what we're thankful for, here's 10 ways you can show you're thankful for your team:

10 Ways to Show You're Thankful for Your Team

1.       Put safety first always.  Providing a good safety program may go unnoticed but if you remind them that you're keeping them safe so they can go home every day to those who love them, it can go a long way.  

2.       Write a thank you or card to their family.  Brag on them and say thanks for sharing them with you.  There's may hours of overtime throughout the year in construction.  Let them know you appreciate the sacrifices they sometimes make for the jobs to get built on time.

3.       Provide good equipment.  I know, I know.  You're thinking, "but they tear it up!"  What if you said you're providing it because you know they'll appreciate the quality and take care of it?  It may go further than what you'd think. 

4.       Communicate across the company.  Team meetings to review upcoming work and newsletters, blogs, or social media can help keep employees informed of what’s happening across the company and what's coming down the pipeline.  It will make them feel valued and secure in the future.

5.       Provide breakfast or lunch periodically.  They say the way to a man's hear is through his stomach.  As a female, I would say this is true for women too!  A family that eats together stays together.  Your team is your work family and we all want them to stick around, so this is a good way to boost employee morale and thank employees for their hard work at the same time.  Something as simple as pizza, burgers, or breakfast burritos will do the trick.

6.       Give them company apparel.  Most employees will proudly wear this as a badge of honor that they work with your team.  Let them show their company pride with a branded hat, shirt, or jacket!  Here’s another way to market your brand at the same time.

7.       Recognize exceptional work!  When you're finished with a project, share the excitement and tell them they're a part of the team that made it a success.  You could give them a photo of the project, a project t-shirt or hat, or a celebration to show your appreciation (see #5 and #6).

8.       Recognize Employees of the month.  This can be a hard one- depending on the company size and configuration but it can go a long way.  Consider having each foreman nominate someone.  Be sure to include why they were nominated.  Recognizing them in a newsletter, a meeting, a certificate, or a special hat or shirt would all be great ways to do this (see #6).

9.       Host Company Picnics or Parties.  Bringing your entire crew, including their family, is a great way to boost company morale and teamwork.  It gives management an opportunity to thank the families in person (see #2.)

10.   Provide training and/or advancement opportunities.  Workforce development is a huge buzzword right now and for good reason.  We need more tradesmen than ever before.  Training is a win-win for both the company and the employee.

We are forever thankful for our Spec Rents team.  Their hard work, dedication, and loyalty help to increase the safety and productivity of our customers and we appreciate all they do. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.  May your turkey be moist and your home and heart be full of love and thankfulness this holiday weekend.

Post by:  Elizabeth "Liz" Graves, Sales Manager at Spec Rents, LLC.  Contact Liz at lizg@specrents.com

What’s big, orange, and partially round?

If you guessed a pumpkin, you’re right.  It is almost Halloween, of course!

But the answer I was looking for was a Mud Hog, one of the many fabulous creations by EZG Manufacturing.  Read below on how these bad boys can help you out.

 MH12- Mud Hog

MH12- Mud Hog

At a time when everyone is scrambling to meet the requirements of the recently updated OSHA silica regulations, many are still asking what is supposed to happen with the mixing stations.  OSHA conveniently (or not-so-conveniently) left this out of Table 1.  Because of this, there’s no guidance of what is to be done here. 

So, what’s a contractor to do?

  • Pause for a minute before agreeing to use respirators (N95 most likely).  There’s a chance the General Contractor will assume this is what should be done but this opens a whole can of worms (and medical exams, fit testing, and paperwork) that you probably don’t want to do unless absolutely necessary (note: that there are some activities within Table 1 that may require it). 
  • Determine how you’re mixing your mortar.  Are you:
    • Using a silo system with pre-mixed mortar
    • Using pre-mixed mortar in smaller, most likely in 80 lb, bags
    • Batching (field mixing) everything
  • Check with your supplier or masonry association to see if you’ve got any access to objective data to show you’re under the limit. 
    • If you’re buying pre-mixed mortar, you may be able to get testing that is similar to what you’re doing from your suppliers.  This will likely need to be in the same general region as you are working or the mix design and conditions could be different, causing OSHA to not accept it as objective data.
    • Check with your local or state association to see if there’s any objective testing available for either pre-mixed or batching. 
    • If you can’t get objective data that works for the way you’re mixing, you can perform testing of your own but be careful to follow all steps and requirements for testing, including posting results, allowing employee representatives, etc.
  • If you’re over the PEL, you’ll need to determine what respirator your employees need to wear and follow the guidelines of the respiratory protection standards.
  • Stay tuned in to MCAA and with your suppliers. 
    • Manufactures, like EZG, are actively working to develop solutions to help contractors keep working, despite these new and challenging requirements.  
    • If you have ideas on creating better ways to handle these issues, partner with your manufacturers or suppliers to develop these solutions, when possible.

Regardless of whether you have the data to show you are under the PEL or not, if you’re making a big cloud of dust at your mixing station, you could still be a target of OSHA and/or the General Contractor’s safety person. 

Why does that matter?

  • Both groups can (and probably will) stop work until you can prove otherwise. 
    • If your mixing station shuts down, you’re not going to be laying units for much longer. 
    • It could take you a bit to find the necessary paperwork- so the easier access your crews have to all documentation, the better.
  • If OSHA finds one area that they see a lot of dust, they will probably look at every other area that there is potential dust.  Ask yourself the following:
    • How confident are you that your team is following everything in the regulation? 
    • Do you have paperwork for every other potential silica-producing activity? 
    • Is your respiratory protection plan up to date and does your crew know about it?
    • Is your SDS/HAZCOM all up to date and does your crew know about it?
    • Has your crew all been trained on silica and do you have proof?
    • Does your crew know who your competent person?
  • If there’s enough dust, OSHA may decide to do their own air monitoring and, even if you have objective data, you may be stuck with the test results that they do.
    • See OSHA’s memo for the Flowcharts they use to determine whether air sampling is necessary or not.

 

The big question is- how do I reduce the dust at the mixing station? 

By now you might be wondering why I led this story with the Mud Hog.  This is where the EZ Grout products come in- reducing the dust at the mixing station.  There’s a few great options, coupled with work practices, that can help you to prevent the dust that blows around like a big red flag:

Like any other dust control system- whether wet or vacuum- it is dependent upon the person operating it to be trained and use it correctly.  Running the mixer a few rotations with water before they open the grate to check the mix is necessary to avoid dust.  This may seem like common sense, but mud men are used to seeing their mix so there will be a learning curve.

 EZG Mud Hogs Grate Covers

EZG Mud Hogs Grate Covers

Spec Rents is a proud distributor of EZG Manufacturing products, including the above-mentioned mixers.  Like other products we carry, we know that these products stand the test of time. 

Less downtime = more units in the wall. 

Whether it’s less breakdowns or fewer arguments with the General Contractor’s safety guy about a cloud of dust at the mixing station- the above EZG products will make you more productive.  That’s something we all need.  Check out our Silica Solutions product page for more info or contact us if we can help you in any way to navigate this regulation.

Post by:  Elizabeth "Liz" Graves, Sales Manager at Spec Rents, LLC.  Contact Liz at lizg@specrents.com