Everything you need to know about OSHA’s Silica Rule
On September 23, 2017, OSHA’s Final Rule on respirable crystalline silica arrives at its first compliance deadline. The rule is the result of years of review and scientific evidence related to the harmful effects of silica dust on the human body, particularly in regard to silicosis. The Final Rule is an update on the old regulations, which have not been updated since 1971 when OSHA was created.
Here is everything you need to know about the new regulations:
- OSHA has updated the regulations on respirable silica in the workplace to better account for the health needs of employees
- The Final Rule was officially adopted on June 23, 2016
- The first compliance deadline was pushed back 90 days, to September 23, 2017
- The old regulations had a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour shift
- The new regulations have lowered the PEL to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air for an 8-hour shift
- Employers are required to use controls (ventilation, water, etc.) to keep the silica levels below the PEL
- If levels cannot be kept below the PEL, employers must provide the correct personal protective equipment (PPE)
The reason behind the implementation of these new regulations is the need to prevent the many health complications, especially silicosis, which occurs as a result of inhaling silica dust in the workplace.
- Silicosis is a lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica particles, which scar the air sacs in the lungs making breathing difficult
- Silicosis can lead to lung cancer, as silica is classified as a carcinogen by the American Cancer Society
- People with silicosis are at a higher risk of contracting tuberculosis
- Bronchitis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) may occur as a result of silicosis
- There is no cure for silicosis
- Silicosis may develop as early as a few weeks after exposure to as late as 30 years after exposure
- OSHA’s rule will go into effect in stages, allowing the affected industries time to make sure they are in compliance with the new regulations. Below is a timeline of the important dates for compliance:
- June 23, 2016: New Rule Adopted – the date the Final Rule officially goes into effect
- Sept 23, 2017: Construction Compliance Date – all construction jobs are required to follow the regulations set forth in the Final Rule
- June 23, 2018: General Industry, Maritime, and Hydraulic Fracturing Compliance Date – the remaining industries must comply with the regulations in the Final Rule
- June 23, 2018: Construction Sample Analysis Compliance Date – all sample testing and analysis
- June 23, 2021: Hydraulic Fracturing Engineering Controls Compliance Date – the final deadline; all necessary engineering controls must be in place for the Hydraulic Fracturing industry to fully comply with the regulations in the Final Rule
Following the regulations set forth in the Final Rule, industries will see a reduction in new silicosis cases annually. While responsible employers have been taking protective measures for years, reducing or eliminating the risk of silicosis, all employers now have a definitive set of guidelines to ensure worker safety. Working with OSHA, employers across the country can eliminate silicosis as a threat to employees.