Silica Standard for General Industry, Maritime Set To Go into Effect

OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standard for general industry and maritime is set to go into effect on June 23, 2018. When the standard becomes enforceable, employers in these industries must comply with all obligations of the standard except for the action level trigger for medical surveillance.

Employers will be required to offer medical examinations to employees exposed above the permissible exposure limit of 50 µg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour day, for 30 or more days a year beginning on June 23, 2018.

Employers have another two years until they will be required to offer medical examinations to employees exposed to silica at or above the standard’s action level of 25 µg/m3. The phase-in date for this action-level requirement is June 23, 2020.

The rule provides an additional three years for employers in the hydraulic fracturing industry to come into compliance with the standard.

According to OSHA, this additional time will allow hydraulic fracturing employers to take advantage of emerging technologies for controlling respirable crystalline silica. Hydraulic fracturing employers can continue to have employees use respirators when exposures exceed the PEL until June 23, 2021, when they must implement engineering controls to limit exposures to the new PEL.

OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standard for construction became enforceable on Sept. 23, 2017, following a delay. Enforcement of the construction standard was originally scheduled to begin on June 23, 2017. During the first 30 days of enforcement, OSHA offered compliance assistance in lieu of enforcement for employers who were “making good faith efforts” to comply with the construction standard.

OSHA’s final rule to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica was published in March 2016 and comprises two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime.