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OSHA’s Update to the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard

Respirable crystalline silica felt like an afterthought to OSHA by many in both construction and general industry. A rise in silicosis from fracking put it back on their radar, updating a standard they had not touched since the 1970s. To better align the standards and match current studies, OSHA matched both construction and general industry standards. The revised standard addressed new engineering controls and ensured current controls were in use for some of the more historically dusty tasks like concrete cutting. The main benefit to the University is that as long as employees follow the table provided by OSHA for engineering controls, employees will reduce potential exposure to respirable silica dust to minimum.

Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) was able to develop a better understanding of what areas in the University would be affected to OSHA’s standard changes by hosting a discussion meeting with affected employees. This collaborative discussion enabled EHS to develop a training program that effectively relays to employees the importance of silica dust. For many, crystalline silica was a new phrase even though it is very common in many products that are in use around us on a daily basis. EHS conducted training that helped employees gain an understanding of what activities could create the dust and how to combat exposure during work.

EHS also conducted an assessment of tools and equipment utilized around Facilities Services to ensure it was up to date and stressed the importance of the tools and equipment being used as the manufacturer intended. Equipment recommendations were also made to Facilities Services senior management who authorized the purchase. The large equipment order included self-cleaning HEPA-filtered vacuums for affected shops as well as tools which would hook into those vacuums to prevent airborne dust. EHS believes this update to the standard continued to open up the dialogue between Facilities Services employees and EHS. This has allowed for the growth of a positive safety culture that will continue into 2019 and beyond.

Performance measurement is a critical part of the EHS management system. Education, customer service and internal processes are the three most essential components of our work. The chart below indicates the performance in these areas over a five-year period with Level Four representing optimum performance. The adjacent tab shows the specific performance activities and the level of that performance for 2018.

Components, Years and Level Completed
Education Customer Service Internal Processes
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
4 4 4 4 3 4 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 4 2


  • Trained/Number of Employees:
    • Respiratory Protection/1,091
    • EHS Office, Clinic, IMAC, SS, Student Affairs/4,158
    • Joint Commission/4,168
    • Clinical Tuberculosis Infection Control/6,444
    • Clinical Bloodborne Pathogens/6,540
    • Ergonomic Self-Evaluations/48
  • Provided Manual-Propelled Lift training for 50 “For the Kids” Dance Marathon Operations student fundraising, Memorial Hall, UNC Air Operations at RDU.
  • Provided UNC Electrical Safety/Arch Flash trainings to 136 Facilities Service personnel.
  • Developed and provided training on Silica Awareness under the new OSHA Crystalline Silica Standard to 248 employees.
  • Provided Powered Industrial Truck practicals for 26 OWRR, Shipping/Receiving, and Surplus personnel.
  • Provided Fall Protection training for 50 Memorial Hall and Thurston Bowles employees.
  • Provided the following various trainings: CPR/AED, Fall Protection/PPE, HMP plans, Hot Work, blood-borne pathogen, scissor lift, fork lift.
  • Updated 667 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) employee records from approved Hazards Management Plans (HMP).
  • Developed 40 JSAs and updated JSA library. Examples: Hand Truck, Band Saw, Portable Band Saw, Leg press equipment, Chainsaw (update), How to Handle a Drum, General pipe unclogging, Koury washdown steps, Wheelbarrow, Mopping, Short & Long Gas Pruner and backpack vacuum.

Customer Service

  • Processed and managed 517 workers’ compensation claims with medical treatment, return to work, hearings/mediations, and monthly expenditures.
  • Conducted on-site inspections of 229 Hazards Management Plan (HMP) for numerous campus units and entered HMPs for work unit in the on-line HMP system.
  • Developed Rescue Plans for the following roofs: Giles Horney, Morehead Planetarium, Medical School Wings E/F, Fetzer Hall, Carmichael Residence Hall, Hinton James Residence Hall, Bell Tower.
  • Conducted safety evaluations for the following areas: Kenan Labs, Marsico Hall, Wilson Library, McColl Business School Parking Garage, Exterior Shop, Trailer 52, Cheek-Clark, Rams Head Parking Garage, Hill Hall and Swain Hall.
  • Consulted on the following Fall Protection projects: Friday Center Project, Hanes Art, Rams Head Parking Deck, Cheek-Clark, MacNider Hall, Lewis and Everett Residence Halls, Phillips Hall, Hazards Waste Facilities, Memorial Hall, Kenan Labs, Thurston Bowles, East Chiller Plant and Mary Ellen Jones.
  • Hazard Management Team held its first Shop Safety Fair. The fair provided shop employees with the opportunity to discuss safety equipment and PPE with various safety vendors.
  • Evaluated and reviewed equipment used for silica dust. Equipment upgrades were suggested and implemented in various facilities shops. Silica policy was developed and implemented.
  • Consulted with General Administration regarding workers’ compensation and safety questions.

Internal Processes

  • Investigated 80 incidents: falls, equipment, PPE, materials handling, strains, and stuck in/between objects, etc.
  • Assisted the Director of Emergency Management at UNC-Wilmington during Hurricane Florence.
  • In preparation for Hurricane Florence, developed and formalized A Damage Assessment Team (DAT). Prepared a safety briefing, PPE, and DAT assessment Excel forms. Audited PPE supplies and made additional purchased.
  • Assisted payroll with out-of-state workers’ compensation coverage.
  • Prepared and submitted OSHA 300A and other various OSHA random surveys.
  • Continued consultation with UNC Healthcare LMS course designer regarding content of courses that affect School of Medicine employees, requirements and database sharing in order to improve customer services.