OSHA is Considering a Change to The Silica Dust Standard

concrete cutting

In September of 2017, OSHA’s new standard on exposure to respirable crystalline silica went into effect in the construction industry.  The rule lowered the allowable exposure to the harmful substance to 50 micrograms per cubic meter, a measurement that we’re all familiar with [/sarcasm].  After a full year of enforcement, OSHA is considering making a change to the rule.

In OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.1153, employers are required to protect their workers in one of two ways: either actively monitor each employee’s exposure to silica dust or comply with “Table 1 - Specified Exposure Control Methods When Working With Materials Containing Crystalline Silica,” which is included within the standard. 

Table 1 only currently includes 18 different pieces of equipment or tasks that could expose workers to potential silica hazards.  Because of that, OSHA is exploring control measures that are not listed in Table 1.  To begin exploring these measures, OSHA has submitted a Request for Information (RFI) with a due date of December 2018.  It’s currently listed in “Prerule Stage.”

Per the RFI, “OSHA is interested in information on the effectiveness of control measures not currently included for tasks and tools listed in Table 1. The Agency is also interested in tasks and tools involving exposure to respirable crystalline silica that are not currently listed in Table 1, along with information on the effectiveness of dust control methods in limiting worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica when performing those operations. OSHA intends to evaluate the available information to determine if revisions to Table 1 may be appropriate.”

According to Business Insurance, the request was issued as part of the most recent Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which was released last week. In the Spring agenda, the administration mostly focused on ways to remove regulation, so it may be surprising to some that OSHA is considering adding more regulation with their silica request.

In the first 6 months of the 2017 silica dust rules enforcement, OSHA issued 116 violations.  In August, OSHA issued what is believed to be the largest silica dust violation in rule history at $304,000.

For more information about the silica standard, you can check out some frequently asked questions here, or watch 7 short videos to help train your construction crews here.