The New OSHA Silica Rules

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The new OSHA Silica rule covers engineering controls, protective clothing, medical surveillance and other issues. OSHA presents the rule as two standards – one for general industry and maritime and the other for construction. Highlights include:

  • Lowering the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged during an 8-hour shift
  • Mandating that employers use engineering controls and work practices to restrict worker exposure, bar access to high-exposure sites, supply respiratory protection when controls cannot curb exposures to the PEL, train employees, and offer medical exams to highly exposed workers
  • Offering a table of specified controls that construction employers can follow for “greater certainty and ease of compliance” without monitoring exposure
  • Allowing employers to have enough time to satisfy requirements by spacing out compliance dates

OSHA created the table in response to small construction employers’ claims that measurement is expensive and difficult, Michaels said, adding that construction employers can avoid measuring by following the table’s principles.

Both standards are scheduled to go into effect on June 23, 2016. Industries will then have one to five years to meet most requirements. The construction industry must comply by June 23, 2017; general industry, maritime and hydraulic fracturing must adhere to requirements by June 23, 2018; and hydraulic fracturing will have until June 23, 2021, to comply for engineering controls. The extended time allows employers to provide medical exams to some workers, and gives hydraulic fracturing employers the opportunity to implement dust controls for the new PEL, OSHA states.

 

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