OSHA Delays New Silica Dust Exposure Rules



Originally set to be enforced on June 23, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration new rule regarding silica dust exposure limits has been delayed an additional 90 days, to September 23, 2017.  Many construction industry groups were upset by the new rule, as they deemed it “technologically and economically infeasible, but also unnecessary.”

Construction workers mostly come into contact with silica dust when cutting concrete, stone, and brick masonry.  The inhalation of silica dust can cause many health risks, including lung cancer, silicosis, COPD, and kidney disease.

When finally put into effect, the new silica rules will mark the first time the standard has been updated since 1971. The final rule will reduce the exposure limits to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, which is 5 times less than the previous allowable limit.  To limit exposure to workers, employers will be responsible for implementing stronger engineering controls and/or PPE.

OSHA announced the delay in the enforcement of the rule on April 6, in a press release.  In it, the organization states that “The agency has determined that additional guidance is necessary due to the unique nature of the requirements in the construction standard. Originally scheduled to begin June 23, 2017, enforcement will now begin Sept. 23, 2017.

OSHA expects employers in the construction industry to continue to take steps either to come into compliance with the new permissible exposure limit, or to implement specific dust controls for certain operations as provided in Table 1 of the standard. Construction employers should also continue to prepare to implement the standard's other requirements, including exposure assessment, medical surveillance and employee training.”