Many of the operations in surface fabrication generate significant noise. OSHA requires you to assess noise levels, and provide protection to those exposed above acceptable levels. If noise levels exceed OSHA limits, the first step is to use administrative or engineering controls to reduce noise exposure. If such controls fail to reduce sound levels enough, hearing protection must be provided and used to reduce sound levels to acceptable limits. The employer must administer an effective hearing conservation program, which includes monitoring and audiometric testing.
Dust reduction should be accomplished first by engineering control measures (i.e. enclosures, ventilation, hoods, etc.). In addition, dust masks, or filtering face pieces, may be needed. You must ensure that masks are used properly, and discarded when no longer effective. A respirator program is required if sanding or polishing granite or other stone slabs containing silica.
There are two types of respirators: air purifying respirators filter the air from the immediate work area before it enters the body; supplied air respirators provide clean air from an airline or tank. Each of these types have various models, including those that cover half of the face (mouth and nose area), all of the face (referred to as a full face piece) or a helmet or hood. Respirator selection becomes particularly important with air purifying or filtering respirators because they clean the air rather than supply fresh air.
Air purifying respirators work by filtering the air before it reaches your lungs. For dust or particles, the pores of the filter are small enough to screen out the particulate. For chemical fumes or gases, the filter contains absorbents like charcoal that capture the chemicals before they reach the lungs. Some work situations require both dust and chemical removal. Respirator selection is based on the hazard and the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of the particular contaminant. The respirator you select must keep the employee’s exposure at or below the PEL.
WHAT CONSTITUTES AN EFFECTIVE PPE PROGRAM?
Back to the basics! As we said before, begin with a hazard assessment of what chemical and physical hazards exist in your workplace. Be familiar with the permissible exposure limits of airborne contaminants and physical agents used. This assessment must be written!
The next step is hazard control: Whenever possible, eliminate or engineer out hazards. Use general or local exhaust to control dusts, vapors, gases, fumes, smoke, solvents or mists that may be generated. Develop safe work practices to minimize risks, and use hazardous materials only in specific work areas that can be ventilated. The last choice for hazard control is PPE: It is the final line of defense for protection from workplace hazards! You must select the correct PPE for each work task and complete your written PPE program, including what PPE must be worn, and who, specifically, must wear it. If you expect an employee to wear a respirator, they must have a medical evaluation and then be fit tested.
The final step is training. Employees must be trained on the purpose, correct use and limitations of their PPE. They must understand when and how to use it, and how to care for it.
As discussed in our first article, developing a safety program may seem like a daunting and expensive task for your business, but it is money well-spent; studies have shown a $4 to $6 return for every dollar invested in safety and health. Remember, a successful safety program is key to having not only healthy and competent workers, but also a healthy successful business.
About The Author: Shannon DeCamp can be reached at 800-852-8314 or you can visit www.technetrainonline.com for more information on OSHA Compliance requirements for the solid surface industry.