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Construction employers could see 30-day grace period on OSHA silica rule

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Construction employers making good-faith efforts to comply with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s silica regulation could avoid citations during the first 30 days after the agency begins enforcing the rule.

The Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica rule reduces the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica over an eight-hour shift to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air for the construction industry, one-fifth of the previous maximum, as well as for general industry and the maritime industry, half of the previous maximum.

But the agency previously delayed enforcement of the rule, scheduled to begin on June 23, to Sept. 23 because of the need to provide additional guidance on the silica rule’s requirements for the construction industry. 

The silica rule provides guidance, commonly referred to as Table 1, outlining exposure control methods for selected construction operations, with employers who follow these methods not required to measure workers’ exposure and not subject to the permissible exposure limit.

“During the first 30 days of enforcement, OSHA will carefully evaluate good faith efforts taken by employers in their attempts to meet the new construction silica standard,” Thomas Galassi, OSHA’s acting deputy assistant secretary, said in a memo dated Wednesday. “OSHA will render compliance assistance and outreach to assure that covered employers are fully and properly complying with its requirements. Given the novelty of the Table 1 approach, OSHA will pay particular attention to assisting employers in fully and properly implementing the controls in the table. OSHA will assist employers who are making good faith efforts to meet the new requirements to assure understanding and compliance.

“If upon inspection it appears an employer is not making any efforts to comply, OSHA’s inspection will not only include collection of exposure air monitoring performed in accordance with agency procedures, but those employers may also be considered for citation,” he continued. “Any proposed citations related to inspections conducted in this time period will require National Office review.”