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OSHA forges ahead with silica rule despite legal challenges


Litigation over the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's silica rule should not delay its implementation, according to an agency official.

The Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica rule will reduce the permissible exposure for crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift, from the current 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air standard for general industry, despite industry contention that the lower limit is unattainable.

The implementation clock starts next week, with construction employers required to comply with the new rule by June 23, 2017, while general industry, maritime and hydraulic fracturing employers would have an additional year for most requirements.

The agency expects implementation to proceed as planned despite several pending lawsuits, David O'Connor, director of the Office of Chemical Hazards (Non-Metals), OSHA's Directorate of Standards & Guidance, told members of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety & Health in Washington on Wednesday.

OSHA has received 11 separate petitions filed by industry and labor stakeholders challenging various aspects of the rule, with two voluntarily withdrawn and one expected to be withdrawn shortly, he said, although he did not identify which lawsuits have been withdrawn.

“It's very early in the process so this is something that will play out over the coming years, but we don't anticipate at this time it will affect the implementation dates of the standard or any aspect of the standard,” he said.

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