OSHA’s Respirable crystalline silica standard for the construction industry – 29 CFR 1926.1153 – paragraph (g)(4) states that “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.”
Paragraph (b) of the standard defines a competent person as “an individual who is capable of identifying existing and foreseeable respirable crystalline silica hazards in the workplace and who has the 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 set forth in paragraph (g) of this section.”
This person can help his or her employer protect their workforce, comply with OSHA and other requirements, and avoid dust-related problems with owners, the public, and bystanders.
A White Paper developed by the American Industrial Hygiene Association provides detailed recommendations for the skills and capabilities a competent person should have (click on this link for a copy of the paper)-“Recommended Skills and Capabilities for Silica Competent Persons.”
The types of knowledge and responsibilities to consider when assigning a competent person include:
- What silica is, when it is hazardous, and the health risks.
- Construction materials that contain silica or, when unsure, who within the company should be contacted.
- Federal, state and local regulations and other requirements that apply to silica.
- The dust-generating tasks that will be performed on the job, which ones will expose workers to silica dust, and the controls that will be used or, when unsure, who within the company should be contacted.
- The proper use of equipment and controls by workers.
- How to determine if a control is in good working order and operating effectively.
- How respirators work and the types to use for construction tasks involving exposure to silica dust.
- Who to notify, on a multi-employer worksite, when another employer’s work force may be affected by silica generating tasks.
- The company’s silica control plan, as well as the company’s overall safety and health plan and the process for resolving safety and health issues.
- Identifying materials containing silica and silica-producing tasks that will be performed on the job.
- Providing training to all employees at risk of exposure to airborne silica either because of the work they are performing or work being performed in the area in which they are working.
- Ensuring that controls and equipment are in proper working order and workers are using them properly, and notifying the contractor of issues that cannot be easily resolved.
- Monitoring the worksite to make sure safe working conditions related to silica are maintained.
- Communicating problems and corrective actions needed to their employer related to use of engineering controls and PPE.
- Communicating potential issues related to employees or bystanders to the employer.