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MSHA issues alert on silica dust and mobile mine equipment


Photo: Maksym Isachenko/iStockphoto

Arlington, VA — The Mine Safety and Health Administration is reminding mine operators to safeguard against worker exposure to hazardous silica dust where mobile equipment is used.

Respirable crystalline silica can damage lung tissue and lead to black lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or incurable silicosis. OSHA estimates that 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust annually.

In a recently published safety alert, MSHA calls on mine operators to control workplace environments to ensure compliance with permissible exposure limits for dust. Additionally, operators should implement engineering controls to reduce dust at its source. Examples include using dust collector systems, enclosures and booths, sprays and water trucks, and environmental cabs. They also must maintain equipment according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, provide respiratory protection and ensure its use, and have a compliant respiratory protection program.

MSHA on July 13 published a proposed rule that would lower the PEL for silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour time-weighted average. The proposed limit is half the current limit and matches the PEL OSHA established in 2016.

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