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July 31, 2017

New OSHA Guide Helps Small Businesses with Silica Rule for General Industry and Maritime

Small Entity Compliance Guide
OSHA has released a Small Entity Compliance Guide for General Industry and Maritime to help small business employers comply with the agency's Final Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica. Employees exposed to respirable crystalline silica are at increased risk of developing serious adverse health effects including silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.

The guide describes the steps that employers are required to take to protect employees in general industry and maritime from the hazards associated with silica exposure. Employer requirements include:

  • Assessing worker exposures
  • Using engineering and work practice controls to keep exposures below a specified safety threshold
  • Offering medical exams to certain highly exposed workers

In general industry and maritime operations, employers must assess the 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) exposure for each employee who is or may reasonably be expected to be exposed to respirable crystalline silica at or above the action level of 25 µg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA. Assessing employee exposures helps employers:
  • identify where exposures are occurring
    select control methods and make sure they effective
  • prevent employees from being exposed above the PEL
  • provide employees with information about their exposure levels
  • give the PLHCP performing medical examinations information about employee exposures
Enforcement of the final rule in general industry and maritime is scheduled to begin next June. Employers in the construction industry should refer to a similar guide for Construction.

Update: U.S. Court of Appeals Rejects Industry Challenges to Silica Rule

On December 22, 2017, OSHA's silica rule survived a court challenge and remains in effect, with a three-judge panel rejecting all five objections raised by  industry groups. The U.S. Chamber said it is reviewing the decision, adding that "we continue to believe that OSHA lacks substantial evidence to support its rule."


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