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General industry and maritime 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 at half of the previous maximum.
Most of the provisions of the general industry and maritime silica standard will become enforceable on June 23.
“During the first 30 days of enforcement, OSHA will assist employers that are making good-faith efforts to meet the new standard’s requirements,” Galen Blanton, acting deputy assistant secretary for OSHA, said in a memorandum released Friday. “If upon inspection it appears an employer is not making any efforts to comply, compliance officers should conduct air monitoring in accordance with agency procedures and consider citations for noncompliance with any applicable sections of the new standard. Any proposed citations related to inspections conducted in this 30-day time period will require National Office review prior to issuance.”
OSHA implemented a similar good-faith grace period last year for citations against construction employers under the silica standard.
The silica rule has been the subject of litigation, although the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year rejected industry challenges to the rule while ordering the agency to explain why it omitted medical removal provisions. Enforcement has been delayed several times under the Trump administration.
The legal battle has just begun over the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's final rule lowering the limits of breathable silica, with betting on both sides whether the stricter requirements will survive judicial scrutiny.