Last Saturday, September 23, the Respirable Crystalline Silica construction standard went into effect, establishing a new 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, an action level (AL) of 25 µg/m3, and a host of ancillary requirements.
During the first 30 days of enforcement, OSHA will carefully evaluate good faith efforts taken by employers in their attempts to meet the new construction silica standard.
OSHA will provide compliance assistance to assure that covered employers are fully and properly complying with its requirements.
Given the novelty of the Table 1 approach, OSHA will pay particular attention to assisting employers in fully and properly implementing the controls in the table. OSHA will assist employers who are making good faith efforts to meet the new requirements to assure understanding and compliance.
However, if an inspection shows an employer is not making any efforts to comply, OSHA's inspection will not only include collection of exposure air monitoring performed in accordance with Agency procedures, but those employers may also be considered for citation. Any proposed citations related to inspections conducted in this time period will require National Office review.
To ensure effective implementation of the new standard, OSHA has developed interim inspection and citation guidance to be released prior to termination of this memorandum. The compliance directive will be finalized thereafter.
OSHA also revised its Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction this year.
OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The Final Rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.
About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Responsible employers have been protecting workers from harmful exposure to respirable crystalline silica for years, using widely-available equipment that controls dust with water or a vacuum system.
- Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
- Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
- Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
- Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.
Both standards contained in the final rule take effect on June 23, 2016., after which industries have one to five years to comply with most requirements, based on the following schedule:
Construction - September 23, 2017. OSHA delayed enforcement in order to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employer.
General Industry and Maritime - June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.
Hydraulic Fracturing - June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021.
For more information, go to OSHA's Silica webpage here: