OSHA Regulatory Update: Final Rule on Silica Dust Exposure
Posted by Cathy B. on September 19, 2016 in Contractor Focus

What do concrete, masonry work, stone work, ready-mix operations, countertop work, foundries, blasting, and other operations that produce silica dust have in common? Aside from the silica in their operations, they all have to comply with the revised OSHA Silica standard.


What’s changing?

The OSHA Silica Standard has been revised for the construction industry and other general industries that utilize silica. Key changes include:


  • Low exposure tasks are excluded, like when only performing tasks such as mixing mortar; pouring concrete footers, slab foundation and foundation walls; and removing concrete formwork.
  • Construction employers who follow Table 1 are required to comply with the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection outlined in Table 1—unless the employer assesses and limits the exposure of the employee to respirable silica as per the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) requirements of the standard.
  • Written exposure control plans are required, in addition to a competent person involved in construction.
  • Medical surveillance must be available to employees exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year, and for those in construction required to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year.
  • Reduction of the action level to 25 μg/m3(micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day.
  • Requirement to provide protection for workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit of 50μg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour day.


What should employers do?

  • Construction employers should follow Table 1 to determine employee exposure levels. All other industries must determine their own exposure levels (Table 1 does not apply).
  • Use dust control to reduce exposures such as wet processes, dust collection systems, and vacuuming.
  • Limit worker access to areas of high exposure.
  • Provide respirators when exposures are above the PEL, or when required by Table 1.
  • Develop a written exposure control plan and train workers on it.
  • Keep records of exposures and offer medical exams to highly exposed workers.


When does my company have to comply?

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.


What assistance is available?

The good news is that employers with 250 or fewer employees are eligible for free consultation services that include government-funded industrial hygiene labs that can conduct silica sampling to determine current exposures. Consultant services and labs can be found on the OSHA Website.


There is information and multiple resources available online and a construction guide is also available.


NIOSH guidance, including engineering controls for specific tools and tasks in Construction, is another resource to learn more about the topic.

Cathy B.
Cathy B. started at ACUITY in the fall of 2015, has a bachelor’s degree in safety engineering, and brings over 32 years of safety experience, including 5 years in loss control. She spent most of her career in manufacturing environments, but also has experience in retail, construction, and trucking fleet safety. She has produced numerous insurance safety videos, brochures, and has written articles for publications. She is currently helping ACUITY enhance their printed materials to better educate our insureds. She was also an EMT for 28 years and worked for full-time and volunteer fire departments. In her free time, Cathy likes to paint stained-glass projects.

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