New OSHA Safety Procedures For Silica Require Employer Compliance

osha safety procedures

New Rules Regarding Silica Dust Require Changes In OSHA Safety Procedures To Maintain Compliance

Nearly two-and-a-half years after publishing a rule proposal to reduce the permissible exposure limit for silica, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released the final rule on March 24, 2016.  The previous rule, released in 1971, only required employers to limit an employee’s exposure to silica within a permissible exposure limit; however, the new rule requires a pro-active approach from employers to ensure that employees are not exposed to silica in excess of the reduced permissible exposure limit, as well as offering medical examinations to employees who are considered “highly exposed.”

Optimum Safety Management is committed to providing the direction and consultation that your organization needs to become compliant with the new rule.  We have created a brief overview to help you understand the new rule, and to help your business plan for the necessary changes to your OSHA safety procedures.  Should you need additional information, have specific questions, or would like recommendations tailored to your unique situation, please contact our safety professionals for more information.

Key components of the rule are as follows:

  • The permissible exposure limit (PEL) was reduced to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air when averaged for an 8-hour shift. Construction work previously had a PEL of 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
  • Employers must now limit the exposure of their employees through various methods, such as:
    • Using engineering controls and work practices
    • Reducing or eliminating high-exposure site access
    • Providing respiratory protection in cases where other controls cannot reduce or eliminate exposure to the PEL
    • Training employees
    • Offering medical surveillance to workers who are exposed to levels above the actionable level of 25 micrograms

OSHA will also offer a table of specified controls for construction employers to make compliance with the rule easier. This table is designed to reduce or even eliminate the cost to monitor exposure, as well as to reduce the time that would be required for laboratory testing.

Optimum Safety Management will provide more information about the changes necessary for compliance with the new rule, so look for future updates on our Respirable Crystalline Silica Safety page.  Our experts are available to ensure that your business is compliant by the dates set by OSHA – June 23, 2017 for construction employers, and June 23, 2018 for general industry employers.

This is the first update to these rules since 1971, and there likely will be questions and unanticipated hurdles as your business implements the necessary OSHA safety procedures to become compliant with the new rule.  Optimum Safety Management is committed to being your partner and making your organization’s transition to the new rule’s requirements as smooth as possible.