On Feb. 4, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a revised National Emphasis Program aimed at identifying and reducing or eliminating worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica in general industry, maritime and construction. The OSHA news release states that this NEP targets specific industries expected to have the highest numbers of workers exposed to silica, and focuses on enforcement of the new silica standards, one for general industry and maritime and one for construction.

Effective in June 2016, the silica final rule for construction lowers the permissible exposure limit from 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over an eight-hour day and requires contractors to follow several ancillary provisions. Construction employers were required to begin complying with the standard as of Sept. 23, 2017.

According to the OSHA press release, the following changes were made to the NEP:

  • Revised application to the lower permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) as an eight-hour time-weighted average in general industry, maritimeand construction;
  • Updated list of target industries, as listed in the appendix of the NEP; from this list, area offices will develop randomized establishment lists of employers in their local jurisdictions for targeted inspections;
  • Compliance safety and health officers will refer to current enforcement guidance for RCS inspection procedures;
  • All OSHA regional and area offices must comply with this NEP, but they are not required to develop and implement corresponding regional or local emphasis programs; and
  • State Plans must participate because of the nationwide exposures to silica.

OSHA will conduct 90 days of compliance assistance for stakeholders prior to beginning programmed inspections for the NEP, according to the news release.

More information on the revised NEP and the crystalline silica standards for general industry, maritime and construction can be found on the OSHA website.

Silica remains a top priority for ABC, and on Oct. 15, 2019, ABC submitted comments as part of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition on OSHA’s Request for Information on Table 1 of the agency’s Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction.

ABC will continue to keep members informed of any developments on the silica rulemaking in Newsline.