In a first for the BCCSA proprietary Silica Control Tool™, a group of workplaces outside the province will begin using the Tool under a 12-month pilot program involving 70 Ontario workplaces, beginning this fall (2021).
The pilot will be funded by the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and access to the Tool will be provided in partnership with the BCCSA and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).
Developed by the BCCSA in 2016, the Silica Control Tool™ is backed by research from a team at the University of British Columbia (UBC) School of Population and Public Health at the Faculty of Medicine. Based on inputs regarding the type of work they’re doing, the Tool helps users to develop an appropriate exposure control plan to mitigate potentially hazardous exposures.
Beginning in 2021, selected Ontario workplaces will receive full access to the Silica Control Tool™, its associated data, and its outputs. The Tool’s user interface has undergone a facelift for Ontario and features other minor adjustments, such as adjusting legislated exposure limits from those seen in BC regulations to those found in Ontario. The Tool can be fully customized to Ontario’s health and safety regulation and standards if adopted by a funding partner in that province following the pilot.
Silica Control Tool™ Program Director Ammar Kavazovic notes that the pilot program will be rigorously studied. Priority is being offered to Ontario workplaces who have already reviewed the Tool and have fully committed to the pilot.
“While it was built for the BC construction industry, the Silica Control Tool™ was always developed and its intellectual property protected with an eye to expanding the use of the product outside BC,” he says. “We’ve seen interest from countries including Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom, but we’re gratified that our Ontario partners appreciated the potential of the Tool to the degree that they requested this pilot.”
The portal for Ontario users will be developed by BCCSA’s software development team and hosted on the BCCSA servers.
The Ontario pilot will generate additional data and user feedback that will be leveraged to make operation of the Tool more robust. However, full adoption by jurisdictions outside the province would provide even greater benefits to BC employers and their workers.
“Engaging users outside of the province would allow us to operate the Silica Control Tool™ at a greater economy of scale,” says Kavazovic. “That would help to subsidize the Alliance’s operating costs, lowering the cost per user. Adding more silica sample data points and expanding the available exposure control methods will make the Tool more effective for everyone.”
Your questions answered:
The BCCSA has developed the Silica Control Tool™ as a resource for the construction industry in BC. The Tool assists workplaces in conducting appropriate risk assessments and implementing effective controls and safe work practices where RCS dust may be an occupational hazard. Through the compilation of data relating to RCS dust exposures pertaining to various materials, tools and tasks in construction, the Tool can predict the expected exposures to workers under similar conditions.
The BCCSA, in partnership with the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), intends to provide access to the Silica Control Tool to a limited number of Ontario workplace parties for a period of 12 months starting in 2021. The intent of this exercise is to provide Ontario employers an opportunity to utilize the Silica Control Tool, the associated data, and its outputs. The Silica Control Tool will help Ontario workplaces, in assessing risk of exposure to RCS dust in the workplace and in developing control plans to help minimize exposure.
- The Silica Control Tool is designed to generate respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust exposure estimates for various processes, such as sanding drywall or chipping concrete.
- The tool assists employers in conducting appropriate risk assessments and implementing effective controls and safe work practices where RCS dust may be an occupational hazard.
- The tool is ever evolving and is currently based on a database of greater than 4000 personal RCS measurements.
- The Tool predicts exposure levels with and without controls and compares both to the accepted exposure limit. The tool also creates both electronic and paper Exposure Control Plans.
- The Silica Control Tool uses a predictive equation bases on regression modelling, using data from our exposure database (including data from consultants, industry, and government sources).
- The benefit of using measurements means we can calibrate the tool to other jurisdictions, like Ontario, as well as see evidence of exposure and control effectiveness. We can monitor trends in exposure, update with new measurements. The measurements can also be used more than once.
The Tool ultimately identifies processes that may lead to exposures over the allowable exposure control limit, provides information about how to bring the exposure within the allowable limit, and produces a corresponding Exposure Control Plan (ECP) for the user.
Other ways the tool can benefit employers:
- The Tool is updated in response to user requests and new data, and so reflects real-world construction industry activities and practices
- Ongoing silica sampling – recent/local data, literature review, new activities added to the SCT, new controls, filling in gaps – means current and reliable data is used to generate silica exposure estimates
- Helps educate employers and workers
- Reduces effort and cost (e.g., conducting air sampling, which can cause delays in work activities)
- Improves quality of exposure data used in risk assessment
- No need to rely on in-house measurements or industrial hygiene expertise, which can be lacking in smaller companies (92% of BC employers have less than 10 employees, and 85% have less than 5)
In BC, the 8-hour occupational exposure limit (OEL) is 0.025 mg/m3 and employers are required by law to monitor exposure for any activity that generates RCS dust and create an applicable Exposure Control Plan (ECP). The substance-specific requirements for RCS dust were implemented in WorkSafeBC’s (equivalent to Ontario’s WSIB) Occupational Health & Safety Regulation in 2017. The PDF and paper copies of the ECP can be presented to a WorkSafe BC officer as evidence of exposure mitigation and compliance with the applicable legislation. Currently, the Tool is used to ensure compliance with best practices and OEL (ALARA, or As Low As Reasonably Achievable) standards outlined by WSBC’s OHS Regulation.
This project is made possible by funding from and collaboration with: