WASHINGTON – On April 6, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a delay in enforcement of the crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry. The 90 day delay will be used for additional outreach and development of educational materials and guidance for employers. Originally scheduled to begin June 23, 2017, enforcement will now begin Sept. 23, 2017 for construction employers. The new OSHA regulations create a significantly lower permissible exposure limit and require the implementation of specific dust controls for certain operations as provided in regulations Table 1. In addition, construction employers must comply with the standard’s other requirements, including exposure assessment, medical surveillance, and employee training.
Crystalline silica is a common material found in many workplace operations such as cutting, sawing, drilling or crushing of concrete, brick or stone, or operations using sand products such as sandblasting and hydraulic fracturing. Among the industries most likely to be affected are (1) construction; (2) concrete products; (3) ready mix concrete; (4) stone and stone products; and (5) abrasive blasting. General industry will be affected starting in 2018, and the new regulations cover over 30 pages. OSHA’s Crystalline Silica web page provides a good source of information. The most challenging change posed by the new rule is the new Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air (50 µg/m3) averaged over an eight-hour day. Employers will be required to maintain, through engineering controls or respiratory protection, exposures below the 50 µg/m3 PEL.
Florida employers can attend a free one-day training session intended to educate front line employees and foreman about OSHA’s new silica standard for the construction industry, presented by the USF OSHA Training Institute. Sign up online for the upcoming classes in Tampa, Daytona, Orlando, West Palm and more.
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