The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released interim enforcement guidance for its crystalline silica standard, which went into effect on September 23.
The document was released on October 19 in a memo to OSHA regional administrators. While the agency has been enforcing the crystalline silica standard in construction since September 23, it didn’t begin full enforcement at that time. It only offered compliance assistance. Starting on October 23, OSHA began full enforcement.
The silica rule is intended to limit workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica. It reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for workers to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift. It also requires employers to implement engineering controls, offer medical exams and develop control plans related to the issue.
Silica is a key ingredient in the manufacture of glass. According to OSHA, as many as 2.3 million workers, many in the construction and manufacturing industries, will be affected by the rule. OSHA says the most severe exposures to crystalline silica result from abrasive blasting. It’s used in many industrial applications, such as etching or frosting glass. Additionally, crystalline silica exposure can occur in the maintenance, repair and replacement of the linings of refractory brick furnaces, such as those used to manufacture glass. Other exposures to silica dust occur in china and ceramic manufacturing and the tool and die, steel and foundry industries.
The rule was originally set to be enforced within the construction industry starting June 23 of this year, but was delayed for three months to allow OSHA to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for affected employers.
The September 23 enforcement date only applied to companies involved in the construction industry. The requirements for other industries, including manufacturing, will begin on June 23, 2018.
Long-term exposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease, according to OSHA.
To read the OSHA document, follow this link.