The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced today the final rule to improve protections for workers exposed to respirable silica dust. The rule aims to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease by limiting workers exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
The final rule hopes to improve worker protection by:
- Reducing the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, average over an eight-hour shift.
- Requiring employers to use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) and work practices to limit worker exposure; provide respiratory protection when controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level; limit access to high exposure areas; train workers; and provide medical exams to highly exposed workers.
- Providing greater certainty and ease of compliance to construction employers – including many small employers – by including a table of specified controls they can follow to be in compliance, without having to monitor exposures.
· Staggering compliance dates to ensure employers have sufficient time to meet the requirements, e.g., extra time for the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) industry to install new engineering controls and for all general industry employers to offer medical surveillance to employees exposed between the PEL and 50 micrograms per cubic meter and the action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter
Employers covered by the construction standard have until June 23, 2017 to comply with most requirements. Employers covered by the general industry and maritime standard have until June 23, 2018 to comply with most requirements; additional time is provided to offer medical exams to some workers and for hydraulic fracturing employers to install dust controls to meet the new exposure limit.
More information can be found at: www.osha.gov/silica