Important Update: Enforcement has been delayed until September 23, 2017. More Here

The Silica Dust Standard:
What You Need to Know.

The new OSHA Silica Dust Standard is here and with it, a lot of confusion. Let us first say, we want to sell you a vacuum, it’s our business. Just like you want more customers for your business, we want the same for ours. With that said, we feel there is some misinformation out there about the new silica dust rule. Do we think our equipment does a better job of helping you comply with the new silica dust standard? Yes. However, just because we want to sell equipment, does not mean we can change what the rule states. So with that said,  what we’ve tried to do with this site is provide an objective viewpoint, so you can see where you stand within the new silica rule.

We recommend you watch the video above first it will give you a broad overview of the silica dust standard. If you have questions look to our FAQ section below. Still have questions? Just ask with the form at the bottom of this page, we’re happy to look into it. Also, check back we’ll be updating this site regularly as we get new questions.

Want to look at vacuums? You won’t find them on this site. For that check out pulsebac.com.

Useful Documents

Small Business Compliance Guide

This compact guide has a full reference of table as well as other important referece material regarding the silica rule.

Full OSHA Silica Standard

This is the long form version. Be warned at 1786 pages long it doesn't make for light reading.

Fact Sheet for Crystalline Silica in Construction

Another compact guide published by OSHA. This gives a quick overview of things. Especailly useful if Table 1 isn't viable for you.

Frequently Asked Questions About OSHA's Silica Standard

1) Does the new OSHA Silica Standard require you to use a bagging vacuum?

No, it does not. Some manufacturers have indicated that OSHA’s new silica dust standard requires you to use a vacuum with a bag. That is just simply not the case. Nowhere in the OSHA Silica Standard does it state that you must bag silica dust. Those recommendations appear to be simply self-serving. The only reference to a bag is if you do use one, the bag needs to be emptied to avoid overfilling. Other than that the only requirements placed on vacuums are in Table 1 of the new silica dust standard.

For proof of this, just look at the OSHA Small Business Compliance Guide. Under the recommendations for walk behind grinders on page 29, OSHA uses a picture of a Pulse-Bac 1250 on top of a 55 gal. drum being used with a Tercco floor grinder for dust collection, without a bag. We see this as strong evidence in contradiction to claims of needing to bag silica dust since we feel confident OSHA knows how to comply with the regulation. Nowhere in the new rule does OSHA require you bag silica dust.

Keep in mind at Pulse-Bac® we offer one of the most advanced bagging systems available.(click here to see the Easy Empty Bagging System),  but bagging the dust is convenient, not mandatory.  So if you have an older tank based system you should be fine as long as it can comply with Table 1 (see question 2). If you own a Pulse-Bac, no matter how old it is, it is OSHA compliant with the new rules. Just be sure to change your filters on a regular basis as recommended in the manual and required by the new silica dust standard.

2) What are the requirements Table 1 places on vacuums?

Two almost constant phrases in Table 1 of the Silica Dust Standard are that for applications where a vacuum is used, the vacuum must have a “filter cleaning mechanism” and “(the) dust collector must provide the airflow recommended by the manufacturer”. This can be Automatic Pulse Cleaning or a manually activated type of cleaning mechanism.

The need for filter cleaning ties into the second statement about airflow. If the tool manufacturer recommends 150 CFM for the tool being used, say a grinder. To be in compliance with the silica dust standard that grinder needs 150 CFM consistently while in use. So a conventional style vacuum with a manual cleaning mechanism that starts off strong with 150 CFM and can lose up to 50% of that suction power as the filter faces with dust and clogs, this may not comply with OSHA’s silica standard and is probably not effective a preventing exposure, which is a potential health risk. That’s why is probably some vacuum brands recommend an excessive amount of CFM and also why if you choose a manual unit you need to be very attentive to using the mechanism.

However, this may not fit the bill with the new silica dust standard and will require the user to frequently stop and manually clean the filters to stay compliant with OSHA regulations. A point to consider, if you are using a manual filter cleaning mechanism, if the user is not regularly and continually stopping work to initiate a filter cleaning cycle, the vacuum will clog sooner rather than later.

Do you have to have multiple filters for filtration? No. Nowhere in the rule does it require that the vacuum have  “multi-level filtration” or “pre-filters”.

Also, the new silica standard generally stated that the vacuum must provide a filtration level of 99%, not 99.99% as sometimes misstated by others. But keep in mind, for certain operations, OSHA requires TRUE HEPA Filtration, 99.97% @ .3 Micron. (see Question 3). If your vacuum has a 99.99% @ .3 micron filtration rate, you are still in compliance.

3) What Does the new Silica Dust Standard say about HEPA Filtration?

This answer is more complex, the simple version is sometimes Yes, you are required to have “TRUE HEPA Filtration” and at other times it is not required. HEPA filtration in the new Silica Dust Standard is defined as filtering 99.97% of dust particles @ .3 micron, not 99.99% that some claim.

In Table  1 of the silica standard, OSHA  generally requires that a filtration rate of 99% for operations where dust is being captured from a tool, but they make no mention of the particle size. To be safe we would recommend  .3 microns should be used for particle size, even though most of the dust particles from materials like concrete tend to be larger.  However, Table 1 does require HEPA filtration when performing certain tasks, especially clean up tasks, as the use of compressed air and brooms is no longer allowed. So it is best to use a vacuum with  HEPA Filtration as defined by the rule (99.97% @ .3 Microns). This way you are covered no matter what task you may be doing.

All Pulse-Bac filters are individually serialized, then tested & certified to meet the 99.97% @ .3 micron rate and come standard on all Pulse-Bac vacuum equipment.

4) Is there anything else I should know about vacuums under the new silica dust standard?

YES!  look at OSHA’s own research and recommendations.  Prior to issuing the new Silica Standard, it was common for OSHA to recommend that the vacuum being used for capturing silica dust have a back-pulse filter cleaning feature. In the body of the text of the new silica standard, OSHA repeated references for the need for a “reverse pulse air filter cleaning” and even cites the need for a timer for the pulse cleaning.  This recommendation is due to the fact that workers tend to get caught up with the job at hand and forget to stop and clean the filters when using vacuums that have manual cleaning mechanisms that rely on the user to stop work and initiate a cleaning cycle.

The absence of an automatic cleaning mechanism makes silica dust exposure more likely to occur as the filters face with silica dust and do not get cleaned till such time the user sees dust in the air, but by then it is too late. The PEL (permissible exposure limit) has most likely been exceeded. This is exactly why OSHA has recommended the vacuum be equipped with an automated system like those found in Pulse-Bac vacuums. This really helps us to understand the intent of the phrase “filter cleaning mechanism” that we see so heavily featured in Table 1 of the new silica dust standard.  Plus from the previous recommendations came the new rule governing what type of vacuum should be used to capture silica dust.

As we have seen in the past, OSHA “recommendations” often become the rule.  We strongly suggest if you are purchasing new dust vacuum equipment that you purchase only equipment with an automatic pulse cleaning feature and avoid vacuum equipment that uses manual features that rely on the user to stop the vacuum and initiate the cleaning cycle.  If new rules are to come, OSHA recommendations like automatic reverse pulse cleaning may be required.

5) How do I determine the amount of CFM I need when using a Vacuum with Silica Dust?

In Table 1 of the silica standard, OSHA has stated that the amount of CFM  or “airflow” is basically handled in two ways.

1) In many cases when using tools that require the use of a vacuum to capture dust, OSHA states that you must use a vacuum with enough CFM (air flow) to meet the requirements set forth by the tool manufacturer. So if you are using a floor grinder and the manufacturer states that model needs 240 CFM, the vacuum being used must be able to generate 240 CFM or more. If you don’t see a recommendation we recommend you contact the manufacturer.

2) OSHA has made a specific requirement on how much CFM the vacuum must have when dealing with silica dust from hand grinders. OSHA states you must have a minimum 25 CFM per inch of air flow for the tool blade that is being used. For example, if you purchase a grinder and the grinder uses a 7” cup wheel you will need a minimum 175 CFM. (25 x 7 =175).

So when deciding what type of vacuum to buy to help comply with the new silica dust standard, it may be best to determine what type of tools you will use with it and what CFM if any the manufacturer recommends for those tools. If you have a 9” hand grinder and the cutting blade is 9” OSHA will be looking to see that the vacuum being used has a minimum 225 CFM. So make sure when purchasing a vacuum that it has the right range of CFM to suit the tools with which you plan to pair it

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