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October 10, 2017

OSHA Delays Enforcement of Crystalline Silica Standard in Construction

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OSHA Respirator Safety Sign
Enforcement of OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standard for construction went into effect on Sept. 23, but the agency announced a 30-day enforcement phase-in to help employers comply with the new standard. That gives employers about 2 more weeks of leeway on compliance. Compliance assistance will be offered to employers making good faith efforts to comply during the first 30 days, but citations may be considered for employers not making any efforts to comply.

The Respirable Crystalline Silica construction standard, 29 CFR § 1926.1153, establishes 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 render compliance assistance and outreach to assure that covered employers are fully and properly complying with its requirements. OSHA has also published a silica compliance guide to help small businesses comply with the new rule.

Silica Dangers


About 2.3 million people in the U.S. are exposed to silica at work. Respirable crystalline silica is created when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling or crushing stone, rock, concrete, brick, block and mortar. Activities that result in worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica dust include:
  • Sand blasting
  • Sawing brick or concrete
  • Sanding or drilling concrete
  • Grinding mortar
  • Manufacturing bricks, concrete blocks, stone counter tops or ceramic products
  • Cutting or crushing stone
Industrial sand used in certain operations, such as foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), is also a source of respirable crystalline silica exposure.

Workers who inhale these crystalline silica particles are at increased risk of developing serious silica-related diseases, including:

  • Silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability and death
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Kidney disease
     

New Silica Standards for Construction and Maritime


OSHA has issued two new respirable crystalline silica standards: one for construction, and the other for general industry and maritime. OSHA began enforcing most provisions of the standard for construction on September 23, 2017, and will begin enforcing most provisions of the standard for general industry and maritime on June 23, 2018.

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