Silica Competent Person

The Cal/OSHA standard for silica in construction became effective in October, 2016. The silica standard contains a requirement recommended by health and safety professionals for employers to designate a competent person. In the few years since the standard was promulgated, identifying a competent person remains an issue for many employers.  Many employees either have not identified a silica competent person or the person identified as the competent person is not adequately qualified to perform the tasks. According to Title 8 CCR Section 1532.3 – Control of Occupational Exposures to Respirable Crystalline Silica, the employer shall designate a competent person to make frequent and regular inspections of job sites, materials, and equipment to implement the written exposure control plan.

Related to the competent person, the employer needs to establish and implement a written exposure control plan which includes the following elements:

  • A description of the tasks that involve exposure to crystalline silica
  • A description of engineering controls, work practices and respiratory protection used to limit employee exposure to each task,
  • A description of the procedures used to restrict access to work areas on minimize the number of employees exposed to respirable silica dust and their level of exposure. Including exposures from tasks conducted by other employers.

Cal/OSHA has developed Table 1 of the crystalline silica standard which provides employers with an option of following task-specific controls and personal protective equipment (i.e., respiratory protection) in lieu of exposure assessment (air monitoring).  While this approach provides for flexibility, the controls must be utilized properly, thus the importance of a competent person. The competent person (which is a company representative with sufficient knowledge and exposure) has been required by Cal/OSHA in a number of regulations, including scaffolding, trenching, confined space etc.

According to 8 CCR Section 1504, a competent person is defined as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”  In addition to the above requirement, a silica competent must be “capable of identifying existing and foreseeable respirable crystalline silica hazards in the workplace and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate or minimize them. The competent person must have the knowledge and ability necessary to fulfill the responsibilities listed in the (written exposure control plan)”

The Silica Competent Person must be able to perform the following:

  • Anticipate the potential for worker silica exposure (e.g., observation, tasks to be performed, historical data, etc.)
  • Conduct an initial evaluation of the work site for potential worker silica exposures;
  • Select, implement and manage the appropriate control strategies in simple situations or recommend the assistance of a more qualified person for more complex situations (such as a Certified Industrial Hygienist).
  • Monitor the work site and take prompt corrective action to ensure that work conditions are maintained.

A silica competent person is typically on site on a daily basis.  A competent person is expected to make “frequent and regular” inspections of the job site. The employer should choose the most suitable person or persons at each job site to serve as the competent person. It is perfectly acceptable to have multiple competent persons on a job site who each oversee a different regulation, or to have multiple competent persons for a single regulation to provide overlap.  The knowledge and skill of a silica competent person will not be equivalent to that of a Certified Industrial Hygienist; however, the competent person should assist with hazard assessments, monitoring, and designing controls.

In addition to Section 1532.3, Cal/OSHA still requires compliance with Section 1530.1 – Control of Employee Exposures from Dust-Generating Operations Conducted on Concrete or Masonry Materials.  In general, the requirements of Section 1532.3 are more comprehensive than many of the requirements in 1530.1. Cal/OSHA has stated that construction employers covered under Section 1530.1 must still comply with its requirements and 1532.3. Additional requirements in Section 1530.1 include:

  • Procedures to ensure that dust reduction system maintain there effective for dust reduction throughout the work shift.
  • Additional training topics, not included in section 1532.3 including: proper use and maintenance dust reduction systems, including safe handling and disposal of waste materials; importance of personal hygiene and housekeeping practices.
  • In addition, the supervisor of workers that are cutting drilling or coring of concrete or masonry materials will be trained in the following: identification of tasks employee will perform that result in silica exposure and procedures for implementation of the measures to reduce exposure to concrete or masonry dust.

Section 1530.1 does not have a requirement for a competent person.  However, it may be an expedient approach to combine requirements of Section 1532.3 and Section 1530.1 into one comprehensive written exposure control plan with a competent person able to address both standards.

Please refer to the Cal/OSHA standard (Title 8 CCR Section 1532.3 – Control of Occupational Exposures to Respirable Crystalline Silica) or talk to The Cohen Group regarding silica exposures and specifically with assistance in preparing written exposure control plans and/or training and assisting your competent person(s). We can also assist you with sampling needs and evaluation of control options.  Tim Bormann is a co-author of the American Industrial Hygiene Association White Paper titled Recommended Skills and Capabilities for Silica Competent Persons

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