Crystalline Silica Safety
Regulatory Alert: The construction silica standard is now being enforced! Excludes requirements for sample analysis in 29 CFR 1926.1153(d)(2)(v), which start on June 23, 2018.
2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica, affecting 676,000 workplaces. While silicosis deaths have declined in recent years, the problem remains serious.
To better protect workers from silica exposure, OSHA issued two standards to improve silica safety – one for general industry (1910.1053) and one for construction (1926.1153). Affected industries include construction, concrete products, foundries, paintings and coatings, oil and gas operations, and many more. Both standards took 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, one year after the effective date.
- General Industry – 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.
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What are the key provisions of the final rule?
- 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 to limit worker exposure;
- provide respirators when engineering controls cannot limit exposure;
- limit worker access to high exposure areas;
- develop a written exposure control plan; 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.